Wo gehest du hin? (Where do you go?) or (Where are you
heading?), BWV 166, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for Cantate,
the fourth Sunday after Easter, and first performed it
on 7 May 1724.
Bach composed the cantata in his first year in Leipzig
for the fourth Sunday after Easter, called Cantate. The
prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the
Epistle of James, "Every good gift comes from the
Father of lights" (James 1:17--21), and from the Gospel
of John, Jesus announcing the Comforter in his Farewell
Discourse (John 16:5--15). The unknown poet took the
question as a quotation from the gospel to begin the
cantata. The theme of the cantata is then the answer to
the question in what direction life should go. The poet
inserted as movement 3 the third stanza of Bartholomäus
Ringwaldt's chorale "Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar
wohl" (1582) and as the closing chorale the first
stanza of Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt's
"Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende" (1688).
Bach gave the first movement, the quotation from the
gospel, to the bass as the vox Christi. The question
"Where do you go?", which in the gospel is asked by
Jesus (John 16:5: "but now I am going to him who sent
me. None of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'"), is
thus turned to a more general question which Jesus asks
the listener. This simple question is one of the
shortest lyrics for a movement in a Bach cantata. The
tenor aria was first published completely in the Neue
Bach-Ausgabe. The soprano sings the cantus firmus of
movement 3 on the melody of "Herr Jesu Christ, du
höchstes Gut" completely unadorned and is accompanied
by the violins and viola in unison, "of great vigour
and determination, urged on by steady continuo
quavers". The last aria, in great contrast, illustrates
mostly the word "lacht" (laughs), although the text
warns that a fall may come "wenn das Glück lacht" (when
fortune winks). The laughter is pictured in "the
various oscillating semi-quaver figures in the strings"
and in melismas on the word "lacht". The final chorale
on the melody of "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten"
is set for four parts.
Although this Cantata was originally scored for four
vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a
four-part choir only for the closing chorale, oboe, two
violins, viola and basso continuo, I created this
arrangement for Woodwind Quartet (Flute, Oboe, Bb
Clarinet & Bassoon).