BWV 26.6

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Original source: Cantata, Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, BWV 26 (bach–digital page)
Chorale Text: Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (verse 8), by Michael Franck (1652)
Tune: Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, by Johann Crüger (1661), after Michael Franck (1652) (Zahn 1887)
First Performance: 19 November 1724, 24th Sunday after Trinity
Appearance in Early Collections (Key): Riemenschneider 48; Breitkopf 48; Birnstiel 52; AmB 46II p.164; Levy–Mendelssohn 32; Fasch p.37
Other Harmonizations: None

Instrumentation: Colla parteS: violin 1, transverse flute, oboe 1 & 2, horn. A: violin 2, oboe 3. T: viola. B: organ, continuo.

Original manuscripts
Score: D–B Mus. ms. Bach P 47, Faszikel 1
Parts: D–LEb Thomana 26
(Provenance details at www.bach–


Measure 4 of this chorale contain parallel fifths between the soprano (B–A) and the tenor (E–D) where the former is a Re–Do anticipation figure and the latter is a delayed arrival of the seventh of a V7 chord. These "cadential parallels" are considered non–structural since they involve non–chord tones. Cadential parallels can be found in several chorales, most notably in BWV 40.8 where four instances occur.

While the cadential parallels in this chorale appear in the original manuscript, they have been "corrected" in some of the 18th c. chorale collections assembled after Bach’s death. In the important Breitkopf edition published in the 1780s and edited primarily by C.P.E. Bach, the parallels have been rhythmically staggered by dotting the tenor’s E–D eighth notes.

Breitkopf Edition, Volume 1 (1784)

The chorale as it appears in the Fasch manuscript from 1762, predating the Breitkopf by more than two decades, has the same emendation as the Breitkopf, while the AmB 46II version leaves the cadential parallels uncorrected. The editorial inconsistencies between these early chorale collections are rather curious and reflect a strikingly liberal editorial methodology. It is difficult to say who is responsible for such editorial emendations. Simply assuming that C.P.E. Bach as primary editor of the Breitkopf is the principal culprit fails to take into account the other early chorale collections that contain similar emendations, collections like the AmB 46II and Fasch manuscripts, both of which predate the Breitkopf and both which are in the hand of someone other than C.P.E. Bach. Other potential culprits include Johann Kirnberger (who had a known association with "Anonymous J.S. Bach VI," the copyist of the AmB 46II manuscript) and Friedrich Marpurg (who edited the early parts of the 1765 Birnstiel publication which served as a template for the Breitkopf), among other former students of J.S. Bach who were perhaps interested in enhancing the legacy of their great teacher as a master contrapuntalist.

For a complete account of consecutive fifths and octaves in the Bach chorales, see "Consecutive Fifths & Octaves in the Bach Chorales" featured on the Articles & Research page.

bach– by Luke Dahn. Copyright 2019.