BWV 395

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Original source: Chorale, O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben, BWV 395
Chorale Text: O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben*, by Paul Gerhardt (1647)
Tune: O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, Anon. c.1505, based on a 15th c. secular melody (Zahn 2293b)
First Performance: Unknown
Appearance in Early Collections (Key): Riemenschneider 363; Breitkopf 362; AmB 46II p.325
Other Harmonizations: BWVs 13.6, 44.7, 97.9, 244.10, 244.37, 245.11, 392, 393, 394


This chorale survives without text. The text that appears here is the one provided by editors of the Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe (BGA).

However, given the prominent biting minor seconds that appear in the first two phrases of the setting — tenor–bass D/C# in measure 1, soprano–alto D/C# in measure 2, soprano–alto A/G# in measure 4 — it is verse 3 of the Gerhardt tune that proves to be a better fit in terms of word–painting. The same verse was used in the 37th number of the St. Matthew Passion, as well as the 11th movement of the St. John Passion. In both of these other cases, Bach places the same soprano–alto minor second at the word geschlagen, and in the case of BWV 245.11, Bach places the same tenor–bass minor second, created by an accented passing tone, at the word dich in the first phrase. This verse is given below, with the syllables corresponding to the minor seconds given in bold.

Wer hat dich so geschlagen,
     (Who is it that has beaten you)
mein Heil, und dich mit Plagen
     (My salvation, with plagues)
so übel zugericht?
     (So badly mangled?)
Du bist ja nicht ein Sünder,
     (You are not a sinner)
wie wir uns unsre Kinder,
     (As we and our children [know])
von Missetaten weißt du nicht.
     (About misdeeds you do not know.)

Verse 3 of Paul Gerhardt’s "O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben"

bach– by Luke Dahn. Copyright 2017.