Erroneously designated as a cantata in the 19th century, O Jesus Christ, mein Lebens Licht, BWV 118 is not a cantata but rather a motet. It was originally composed in 1736 for an outdoor funeral with chorus and brass instruments. Later on, Bach crafted an “indoor” arrangement for two trumpets, strings, and chorus. This achingly beautiful motet is one of the last original choral works written by Bach. The chorale melody used, “Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid,” must have been one of Bach’s favorites, as it appears in four cantatas: BWV 3, 44, 58 & 153. The sopranos sing the chorale tune, while the lower voices sing counterpoint. The music and text, as is typical of Bach, portray death as a desired outcome, allowing the soul to enter in eternal bliss. The ascending string motive and the sumptuous texture created by the trumpets floating above the voices and strings shape a mesmerizing effect.
© Ryan Turner
Bach Cantata BWV 118 is not a cantata but a short motet. It was originally written for an outdoor funeral with chorus and brass instruments. Later on, Bach made an arrangement for two trumpets, strings, and chorus. The work is a beautiful motet version of the chorale “Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid.”