Forgiveness and Human Tribulation – J.S. Bach, Cantata 113, at Trinity XI

Barent Fabritius : Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (1661)

Barent Fabritius : Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (1661)

Cantata 113, from the 1724 Leipzig cycle, intertwines the salvation that Jesus has enabled and the search and need for its enabling, in this, who have transgressed. The generation of divine forgiveness and the rectification of human tribulation are spoken of only in generalized terms. The text makes no specific reference either to the Easter resurrection, save to isolate that it embodies atonement, and only by the use of example does the text refer to the crisis and the resolution of the publican’s realization of the indispensability of receiving the embrace of divine mercy. The first aria, for alto, violins, and continuo, perseveres in the want of healing in the spiritual dissociation, the sufferings of Christ on the cross and of the penitent in distress. This correlation of hardship is stressed by a recurrent downward set of four notes in the music for the instruments, whose music has an evocative compaction, and the retaining of the chorale, unadorned, in the voice.

From the second book, in progress, on the Trinity cantatas of J.S. Bach, in the series that begins with J.S. Bach: Cantatas for Trinity I through VII

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