BWV 48.7

Original source: Cantata, Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen, BWV 48
Chorale Text: Herr Jesu Christ, ich schrei zu dir, (verse 12), Freiberg 1670
Tune: Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, Görlitz 1587, revision of Dresden 1593 (Zahn 4486)
First Performance: 3 October 1723, 19th Sunday after Trinity
Appearance in Early Collections (Key): Riemenschneider 266; Breitkopf 266; Dietel 40; AmB 46II p.252
Other Harmonizations: BWVs 113.1, 113.8, 168.6, 334

Instrumentation: Colla parteS: violin 1, trumpet, oboe 1 & 2. A: violin 2. T: viola. B: continuo.

Original manuscripts
Score: D–B Mus. ms. Bach P 109
Parts: D–B Mus. ms. Bach St 53


Measure 14 contains parallel fifths between the alto (A–G) and tenor (D–C). While these parallels in this chorale appear in the original manuscripts, 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 eliminated by rewriting the alto line: Bb–A is replaced with an A–G suspension figure. The alteration disturbs the compelling parallel tenths between the alto and bass, and the weak beat–strong beat repetition of the G from measure 13 into 14 further disturbs the line’s forward motion. Bach’s original alto line demonstrates how a strong musical idea can more than adequately attenuate any negative effect of contrapuntal inexactitude.

Breitkopf Edition, Volume 3 (1786)

This particular editorial emendation elimating the parallel fifths actually appeared in the AmB 46II manuscript that predates the Breitkopf. Determining who is responsible for such revisions is difficult. While C.P.E. Bach has often received blame, the AmB 46II manuscript is in the hand of "Anonymous J.S. Bach VI," who had a known association with Johann Kirnberger (see NBA III/2.1 KB, p.27). What is known is that C.P.E. Bach, Kirnberger and other former students of J.S. Bach were interested in preserving and even 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 2017.