Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 54, "Widerstehe doch der Sünde," BWV 54 (BC A51)

    Description by Brian Robins

    The exact date of composition for BWV 54 ("Stand firm against sin") has not been established, but most authorities believe it was composed around 1714, shortly after Bach was promoted to the post of concertmaster at the Weimar court. Bach, who had joined the Weimar court as organist in 1708, had no duties in Weimar that formally involved the composition of sacred cantatas until 1714; only BWV 21 has been firmly assigned an earlier date. The libretto of BWV 54 is drawn from a collection by Georg Christian Lehms first published in 1711, and intended for the two Kapellmeisters at Darmstadt, Gottfried Grünewald and Christoph Graupner. From the libretto we learn that the cantata was intended for the third Sunday in Lent. It is one of only a dozen among Bach's 200 or so extant cantatas to call for a single voice (three of which, BWV 199, BWV 35, and BWV 170 are also settings of texts by Lehms), in this instance an alto.

    The formal scheme is simple: two arias separated by a recitative; there is no concluding chorale. It therefore shows the influence -- especially in its clear division of da capo aria and recitative -- of the secular Italian cantata and opera seria. The theme, a warning to resist the wiles of Satan, is clearly inspired by the Gospel for the day (Luke 11:14-28) which relates the story of the casting out of devils by Jesus. The expansive and harmonically rich opening aria exhorts the Christian not to let "venom seize you" in the shape of the wiles of Satan. After a recitative warning that those "wed with" sin will not enter God's kingdom, comes a second aria in which Bach's colorful symbolism is fully in evidence. Formally it is a three-part fugue between voice, unison violins and violas, the sinuous chromatic subject of which paints an ever-present of picture of sin in its many statements. The text again makes reference to the presence of the devil in sinners.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Widerstehe doch der Sunde
    2. Die Ar verruchter Sunden ist zwar von aussen wunderschon
    3. Wer Sunde tut, der ist vom Teufel

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2015 J.S. Bach-Stiftung A 912CD
    2014 Claudio CR 51542
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMC 971644
    2014 Accent ACC 25317
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94947BR
    2014 ATMA Classique ACD 22668
    2012 Quintone Q 08007
    2011 Naïve E 8933
    2011 Analekta AN 29878
    2011 Warner Classics 671365
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2009 Vanguard Classics 195
    2008 Hyperion CDH55312
    2008 Challenge Classics 72282
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2006 Soli Deo Gloria 118
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Warner Classics 381198
    2006 Teldec Classics 8573811985
    2006 Berlin Classics 8394
    2005 Naxos 8557621
    2004 Centaur Records 2690
    2003 Challenge Records 72203
    2003 Meridian Records 84479
    2002 Astree Naive 8873
    2001 CD Accord 033
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2981644
    2001 Haenssler 92561
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2951644
    1999 Haenssler 92018
    1999 Leipzig 1812
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2908091/95
    1999 BIS 919
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 901644
    1997 Vanguard 64/65
    1996 Meridian Records 84332
    1996 RCA 902662655
    1996 BIS 791
    1996 Erato 14336
    1996 Berlin Classics 92022
    1995 Koch International Classics 371382
    1994 Teldec 4509-91757-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1993 Teldec 4509-92627-2
    1989 Hyperion 66326
    Brilliant 99703/6
    Brilliant 99703
    Brilliant 93102/52
    Brilliant 93102-VOL3
    Vanguard Classics 8106
    Fidelio 8826
    RCA 62655
    Edel Records 1815
    American Bach Soloists
    Koch 7138
    Haenssler
    Ricercar 20002
    Meridian Records 84138