Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (Out of deep distress
I cry to you), BWV 38,[a] is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. Bach composed the chorale cantata in
Leipzig in 1724 in his second annual cycle for the
twenty-first Sunday after Trinity and first performed
it on 19 October 1724.
Bach composed this chorale cantata in Leipzig in 1724.
Written for the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, it
was part of his second annual cycle of cantatas. The
work was first performed on 19 October 1724.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from Paul's
Epistle to the Ephesians, "take unto you the whole
armour of God" (Ephesians 6:10–17), and from the Gospel
of John, the healing of the nobleman's son (John
The cantata is based on the Martin Luther's chorale Aus
tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, a paraphrase of Psalm
130. The texts of the chorale is unchanged for the
first and last movements. An unknown poet paraphrased
the other three stanzas of the chorale for movements 2
The opening choral fantasia combines the structure of a
motet with chromatic and dissonant Phrygian harmonies.
The trombones double the vocal lines, creating an
"unearthly Stygian quality of sound". Although the
lower voices have the initial melodic presentation, it
is adopted by the soprano as a cantus firmus. Each
phrase appears in imitative counterpoint, a "portrayal
of the individual cries of distress which coalesce to
form a combined human clamour".
Like the fantasia, the alto recitative is stylistically
archaic. Its "semi-chaotic" form may reflect the tumult
of evil and sin. The tenor aria is expressive with a
prominent rhythmic motive. It sits in a four-part
texture between the oboes and continuo part. The fourth
movement, a soprano recitative, adopts the chorale
melody as the continuo. The trio aria uses a descending
sequential ritornello based on the circle of fifths,
contrasting with the "serpentine" vocal lines. The
closing chorale is striking, with an "enigmatic" final
The piece is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano,
alto, tenor, bass) and four-part choir, two oboes, four
trombones, two violins, viola, and basso continuo
(specifically including fagotto, violone, violoncello,
I created this arrangement of the first Aria: "Ich höre
mitten in den Leiden" (I hear, in the midst of my
sorrows) for Wind & String Quartet (Oboe, Violin,
French Horn & Cello).