Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5

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Wo soll ich fliehen hin
J. S. Bach - 'Wo soll ich fliehen hin' (BWV5) - manuscript - 02 (right).jpg
Title page from Bach's autograph manuscript (now in the British Library's Zweig collection)
Occasion19th Sunday after Trinity
Performed15 October 1724 (1724-10-15): Leipzig
VocalSATB choir and soloists
  • tromba da tirarsi
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Wo soll ich fliehen hin (Where shall I flee),[1] BWV 5, in Leipzig for the 19th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 15 October 1724. The chorale cantata is based on a hymn "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" by Johann Heermann.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in his second year in Leipzig for the 19th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 15 October 1724.[2] It is part of his second annual cycle of cantatas, a cycle of chorale cantatas. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians – "put on the new man, which after God is created" (Ephesians 4:22–28) – and from the Gospel of Matthew, Healing the paralytic at Capernaum (Matthew 9:1–8).

The cantata text is based on the hymn in eleven stanzas "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" by Johann Heermann,[3] published in 1630, which is recommended for the Sunday in the Dresdner Gesangbuch.[4] An unknown poet kept the first and last stanzas as the respective cantata movements. He paraphrased the other stanzas rather freely: 2 and 3 as movement 2, 4 as movement 3, 5 to 7 as movement 4, 8 as movement 5, and 9 and 10 as movement 6. A year before, Bach had composed for the occasion Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen, BWV 48, concentrating on the promise of Jesus to the sick man: "Your sins are forgiven". Similarly, the awareness of being a sinner who needs healing is the theme of Heermann's chorale and this cantata. The poetry adds to the chorale images which the composer could use, for example in movement 3, the divine source of blood to cleanse the stains of sins, a Baroque phrase relying on Psalms 51:4, Revelation 1:5 and Revelation 7:14. In movement 5 the poet invented a ferocious, hellish army, which is silenced by the believer who shows the blood of Jesus.[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 15 October 1724.[2] The autograph score to the cantata, now in the British Library' Zweig collection, was once owned by Joseph Joachim.[5]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in seven movements is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, tromba da tirarsi (slide trumpet), two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Chorus: Wo soll ich fliehen hin
  2. Recitative (bass): Der Sünden Wust hat mich nicht nur befleckt
  3. Aria (tenor): Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche Quelle
  4. Recitative (alto): Mein treuer Heiland tröstet mich
  5. Aria (bass): Verstumme, Höllenheer
  6. Recitative (soprano): Ich bin ja nur das kleinste Teil der Welt
  7. Chorale: Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn


Bach arranged the movements in symmetry around movement 4 as the turning point in the cantata between desolation and hope, a recitative, which receives added weight by the cantus firmus of the chorale played by the oboe. One line of the chorale stanza is sung unchanged: "was ich gesündigt habe" (the sins I committed).[1][2]

Opening of the first movement, from Bach's autograph manuscript (Zweig collection)

In the opening chorus Bach gave the tune in unadorned long notes to the soprano, reinforced by the trumpet. The vocal parts are embedded in an independent instrumental concerto. The motifs of the instruments, which also appear in the lower voices, are derived from the tune,[4] following the upward movement of its first line and the downward movement of its second line.[6] Both other recitatives are secco. The first aria is accompanied only by an obbligato viola illustrating the flow of blood, termed by John Eliot Gardiner the "gushing, curative effect of the divine spring" in "tumbling liquid gestures", summarized as "the cleansing motions of some prototype baroque washing machine".[4] The tenor sings the same figuration on the word "wäschet" (washing). Bach used the solo viola only rarely in his cantatas (twice, according to Boyd); he may have played these solos himself.[7] The second aria is accompanied by the full orchestra with the trumpet as a "ferociously demanding obbligato".[4] In sudden breaks it conveys the silencing of "Verstumme, Höllenheer" (Be silent, host of hell).[1] Different as the two arias are, the figuration in the second one is similar to the one in the first, interpreting that it is the very flow of blood which silences the "army of hell". The closing chorale is set for four parts.[2]



  1. ^ a b c Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 5 – Wo soll ich fliehen hin". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 475–477. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  3. ^ "Wo soll ich fliehen hin / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2005. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Gardiner, John Eliot (2006). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 5, 48, 56, 79, 80, 90 & 192 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  5. ^ J. S. Bach Cantata BWV 5, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin?” josephjoachim.com
  6. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Wo soll ich fliehen hin / Auf meinen lieben Gott". Bach Cantatas Website. 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  7. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 20 BWV 5 Wo soll ich fliehen hin". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 26 October 2011.

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