Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange? (My God, how long, ah,
how long), BWV 155, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He first performed it in Weimar on the
second Sunday after Epiphany, on 19 January 1716.
On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the
Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm
Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As
concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility
for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the
Schlosskirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule.
He wrote this cantata for the second Sunday after
Epiphany and first performed it on 19 January 1716 in
the ducal chapel.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from
the Epistle to the Romans, "We have several gifts"
(Romans 12:616), and from the Gospel of John, the
Marriage at Cana (John 2:111). The cantata text was
written by the court poet Salomon Franck and published
in 1715 in Evangelisches Andachts-Opffer. He expanded
one thought from the gospel: Jesus is still hidden, but
the "soul" may trust that he will appear at the right
time. The poet uses images of wine to allude to the
miracle at the marriage, such as "Der Tränen Maß wird
stets voll eingeschenket, der Freuden Wein gebricht"
(that the measure of tears is always fully granted, the
wine of joy is lacking). The closing chorale is stanza
12 of Paul Speratus' "Es ist das Heil uns kommen
The opening recitative, speaking of longing and
waiting, expands expressively on a throbbing pedal
point of 11 measures, moving only on the words "der
Freuden Wein gebricht" mentioning "joy" (the lack of
joy, though), only to sink back for the final "Mir
sinkt fast alle Zuversicht" (almost all my confidence
has drained away). In the following duet, an unusual
obbligato bassoon plays virtuoso figurations in a wide
range of two and one half octaves (including a truly
remarkable G0), whereas the voices sing together, for
most of the time in homophony. Movement 3 speaks words
of consolation. Bach chose the bass as the vox Christi
(voice of Christ) to deliver them, almost as an arioso
on the words "Damit sein Gnadenlicht dir desto
lieblicher erscheine" (so that the light of His grace
might shine on you all the more brightly). In the final
aria, lively dotted rhythms in the strings and later in
the voice illustrate "Wirf, mein Herze, wirf dich noch
in des Höchsten Liebesarme" (Throw yourself, my heart,
only throw yourself into the loving arms of the
Highest), the rhythms even appear in the continuo
several times, while the strings rest on long chords.
The tune of an Easter chorale from the 15th century
closes the cantata in a four-part setting.
Although this work was originally scored for soprano,
alto, tenor and bass soloists, a four-part choir for
the chorale only if at all, an obbligato bassoon, two
violins, viola, and basso continuo, I created this
arrangement for Flute & String Quartet (2 Violins,
Viola & Cello).