Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen

Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen

BWV 13 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen (Arie)
  • 2. Mein liebster Gott (Rezitativ)
  • 3. Der Gott, der mir hat versprochen (Arie)
  • 4. Mein Kummer nimmet zu (Rezitativ)
  • 5. Ächzen und erbärmlich Weinen (Arie)
  • 6. So sei nun, Seele, deine (Choral)

Behind the music


Cold comfort

In this cantata, Bach places the emphasis on the suffering in the world

Christianity is one of the religions where suffering plays a main role: the suffering of Jesus on the cross, but certainly also the everyday suffering in our worldly life. Bach wrote this cantata for a date in the liturgical calendar that he associated strongly with suffering: the second Sunday after Epiphany. That is not immediately obvious, as the set sermon for this date concerns a cheerful miracle: Jesus turns water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. But Bach and his librettist read this as a metaphor for Jesus’s salvation, which will transform worldly suffering into heavenly bliss. So the aria comprises two parts. In the first part, Bach portrays the sorrow, and in the second the transcendence of the world.

Nevertheless, the emphasis here is on the suffering, as demonstrated by the title aria for tenor. Right from the start, this lament has an unusual instrumentation: two recorders and an oboe da caccia, a great uncle of the cor anglais, with a deeper register and a bittersweet timbre. Although the two recorders enter with the theme, the oboe da caccia goes on to play a leading role in the accompaniment. The part weaves itself in loops around the tenor part, like the fine decoration on an Arab relief. “My sighs, my tears, cannot be counted”, sings the tenor, approaching despair. The movement continues with an alto recitative, which has an impressive ending, where Bach stretches out the word “wenen” to unbearable lengths. The chorale that follows is a highlight. Bach borrows the melody from the Genevan Psalter. Bach lends colour to the sombre melody through a cheerful harmonic palette, thus imbuing it with ecstatic energy.

The second part remains subdued, but the text becomes more hopeful. Yet it is still made up largely by a rather grim aria for bass, in a minor key. It’s no use weeping and wailing, he says. That won’t help your grief at all. It’s cold comfort. The accompaniment from two recorders and violins in unison does lend liveliness to the whole, and the harmony even seems to hold a ray of hope. The accompaniment ascends at the end of phrases, and Bach briefly modulates to major, and in the middle section the harmony also shifts more in that direction. But the real comfort only comes in the closing chorale: the sincere belief that “it goes as it goes”(translated literally from the German), but that God always gives counsel, even in the most bitter of suffering.

Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen
alto, bass, soprano, tenor
Georg Christian Lehms
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
First performance
20 January 1726

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Extra videos

Vocal texts


1. Arie (Tenor)
Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen
können nicht zu zählen sein.
Wenn sich täglich Wehmut findet
und der Jammer nicht verschwindet,
ach! so muß uns diese Pein
schon den Weg zum Tode bahnen.

2. Recitativ (Alt)
Mein liebster Gott läßt mich
annoch vergebens rufen
und mir in meinem Weinen
noch keinen Trost erscheinen.
Die Stunde lässet sich
zwar wohl von ferne sehen,
allein ich muß doch noch vergebens flehen.

3. Arie (Alt)
Der Gott, der mir hat versprochen
seinen Beistand jederzeit,
der läßt sich vergebens suchen
itzt in meiner Traurigkeit.
Ach! Will er denn für und für
grausam zürnen über mir,
kann und will er sich der Armen
itzt nicht wie vorhin erbarmen?

4. Recitativ (Sopran)
Mein Kummer nimmet zu
und raubt mir alle Ruh.
Mein Jammerkrug ist ganz
mit Tränen angefüllet,
und diese Not wird nicht gestillet,
so mich ganz unempfindlich macht.
Der Sorgen Kummernacht
drückt mein beklemmtes Herz darnieder,
drum sing ich lauter Jammerlieder.
Doch, Seele, nein,
sei nur getrost in deiner Pein:
Gott kann den Wermutsaft
gar leicht in Freudenwein verkehren
und dir alsdenn viel tausend Lust gewähren.

5. Arie (Bass)
Ächzen und erbärmlich Weinen
hilft der Sorgen Krankheit nicht.
Aber wer gen Himmel siehet
und sich da um Trost bemühet,
dem kann leicht ein Freudenlicht
in der Trauerbrust erscheinen.

6. Choral
So sei nun, Seele, deine
und traue dem alleine,
der dich erschaffen hat.
Es gehe, wie es gehe,
dein Vater in der Höhe,
der weiß zu allen Sachen Rat.


1. Aria (Tenor)
My sighs, my tears
Cannot be counted.
When melancholy is met daily,
And misery does not go away,
Ah, then for us this pain must
Already pave the way to death.

2. Recitative (Alto)
My dearest God lets me
Cry out [to him] as yet to no avail,
And in my weeping
Lets no consolation appear to me yet.
The hour [of God’s action] can,
To be sure, be seen from afar;
But nevertheless I must yet implore [God] to no avail.

3. Aria (Alto)
The God who has promised me
His aid at all times,
He lets himself be sought to no avail
Now in my sorrow.
Ah, will he then forever
Be cruelly angry with me?
Can and will he not have mercy
On the wretched, now as before?

4. Recitative (Soprano)
My grief deepens
And robs me of all rest;
My jar of misery is completely
Filled with tears,
And this distress that renders me
Completely insensible is not stilled.
The grievous night of worries
Weighs down my constricted heart;
Thus I sing nothing but songs of misery.
Nevertheless, soul, no;
Just be consoled in your pain:
God can turn the sap of wormwood/sorrow
Most easily into wine of joy,
And thereafter grant you many-thousandfold delight.

5. Aria (Bass)
Moaning and pitiable weeping
Does not help worry’s sickness;
But whoever looks [up] into heaven
And seeks after consolation there,
To him a light of joy can easily
Appear in his sorrowful breast.

6. Chorale
So be now, soul, yours,
And trust only in the one
Who has created you.
Let things be, as they may;
Your father on high,
He knows counsel in all matters.

transl. © Daniel R. Melamed and Michael Marissen
For the annotated version of the text and translation, see here.


  • Release date
    21 March 2024
  • Recording date
    27 August 2021
  • Location
    Walloon Church, Amsterdam
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Soprano
    Dorothee Mields
  • Alto
    Alex Potter
  • Tenor
    Thomas Hobbs
  • Bass
    Stephan MacLeod
  • Violin 2
    Pieter Affourtit
  • Viola
    Femke Huizinga
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Oboe da caccia
    Marcel Ponseele
  • Recorder
    Benny Aghassi, Nienke van der Meulen
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Organ
    Matthias Havinga
  • Director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Martin Struijf, Jesper Blok, Bjorn Tiebout
  • Lights
    Emile Groenewoud
  • Grip
    Tommie Janssen, Thomas Leur
  • Assistent director
    Lilita Dunska
  • Set technique
    Renger Hartog
  • Project manager nep
    Marco Korzelius
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from

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