Where Should I Flee? – J.S. Bach, Cantata 5 at, Trinity XIX

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo : Christ Healing the Paralytic (1667-70)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo : Christ Healing the Paralytic (1667-70)

Musically, cantata 5 is impressive; so impressive that parts of it remain in the mind long after their hearing. The opening chorus, which is an exceptional composition, with all the parts independent, concentrates on the inability of the burdened sinner to be rescued from his fear. The music is dramatic, remarkable, and uncompromising in its depiction of the agitation of the struggle.

The melodic motifs always climb, and then fall in the endeavour, a characteristic especially forceful in the bass line in the continuo, and the movement concludes with falling back to the note with which it began. There is an especially telling moment at bar 54, when the line

Mein Angst sie nicht wegnähme

My anguish could not be taken away

is sung for the first time, and on the word Angst Bach slows the motion for two beats on a chord held by the sopranos, altos, and tenors, then pauses for a beat, and then the attempt to climb upward is taken up again in the bass. After the line completes in the vocal parts, only the instruments are left to return to where they began.

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