Cantata No.89

Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No.89

BWV89 • “Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?”

About this work

Composed for the Twenty second Sunday after Trinity, which fell on October 22, 1724, Bach's Cantata No. 89 "Was soll ich au dir machen, Ephraim?" (How shall I renounce you, Ephraim?) (BWV 89) sets an anonymous text based on the Old Testament passage from Hosea II 8:6. Starting with one of Bach's darkest and most vengeful text -- "A judgment stern without compassion will be pronounced upon your soul. God's wrath and vengeance now is due. No mercy will be shown to you," it ends with Johann Heermann's chorale from 1630 that closes with the line "I shall triumph over Death, Devil, Hell and Sin!" The cantata is modestly scored for bass, alto, and soprano soloists; chorus; a pair of oboes; strings; and basso continuo with a horn doubling the sopranos in the final chorus. Although "Was soll ich au dir machen, Ephraim?" ends in G minor, it starts in black C minor with its first movement, moves to D minor for its second and third movements, then to B flat major for its fourth and fifth movements before closing in G minor. The first movement is a grandiosely dark da capo aria for impassioned bass soloist, oboes, strings, and continuo. The second is a secco recitative for alto soloist and continuo. The third is almost a duet aria for fervent soloist alto and very expressive continuo. The fourth is secco recitative for soprano soloist and continuo that blossoms into a poignant Adagio in its final bars. The fifth is a da capo aria in the form of a trio sonata for soprano soloist, solo oboe, and continuo. "Was soll ich au dir machen, Ephraim?" concludes with a song-like harmonization of Heermann's chorale for chorus and full orchestra colla parte.