Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? (Who knows how near
to me my end?), BWV 27,[a] is a church cantata by
Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for
the 16th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on
6 October 1726.
The first movement of this cantata is "about as tragic
as it gets": it is in a minor key and quickly sounds a
strong dissonance between the oboe phrase and the
continuo. Descending arpeggiated strings underline the
"wails of the damned" represented by the oboes. After
the opening ritornello, the vocal lines alternate
between choir and solo presentations of the phrases of
the chorale, with each voice (except the bass) having
an arioso line.
A tenor recitative leads into a "shadowy" alto aria
accompanied by an oboe da caccia. Chromaticism
contributes to the "fleeting shadows" of the welcoming
of death. The accompanying keyboard part has
historically been played by either harpsichord or
organ. The obbligato oboe conveys a number of different
ideas: dancing, sighing, and "quasi-tragic"
The soprano recitative uses word painting and sustained
chordal harmonies to urge the listener into heaven. The
bass aria then combines two contrasting sentiments:
adieu and agitation. The repeated pairing of the
"farewell theme – tumult theme" holds through both the
opening ritornello and the vocal line, breaking only
with the closing on the farewell theme alone.
The closing chorale includes two soprano parts and is
stylistically reminiscent of the English madrigal.
The cantata is scored for four soloists—soprano, alto,
tenor and bass—a four- or five-part choir, horn, three
oboes, oboe da caccia, organ, two violins, viola, and
I created this arrangement of the opening Chorus &
Recitative: "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? – Das
weiß der liebe Gott allein" (Who knows how near my end
is? It is known to dear God alone) for Winds (Bb
Trumpet, Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, English Horn, French
Horn & Bassoon) & Strings (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).