|Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe |
|Occasion||Third Sunday after Epiphany|
|Performed||23 January 1729: Leipzig|
|Vocal||SATB choir, alto, tenor, and bass solo|
Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe (I am standing with one foot in the grave), BWV 156,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the third Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it on 23 January 1729. The cantata is well known for its opening sinfonia for orchestra and oboe solo.
BWV 156 was Bach's fourth and last cantata for the Third Sunday after Epiphany. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the Epistle to the Romans, rules for life (Romans 12:17-21), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the healing of a leper (Matthew 8:1-13). The librettist was Picander. He incorporated two chorale tunes: "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" by Johann Hermann Schein (1628) and "Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir" by Kaspar Bienemann (1582).
It has six movements:
The opening sinfonia is scored for oboe, strings, and continuo. It is in F major and common time. Compared to the later version for harpsichord, the melody is straightforward and unembellished, and is harmonically conceived to prepare the second movement.
The second movement is a combined tenor aria and soprano chorale with obbligato strings. Unusually, it begins with a syncopated continuo line under unison strings. The movement also features sequences and harmonic contrasts.
Both bass recitatives are secco and in minor mode. The first, the third movement of the cantata, is characterized by a disjunct melodic line and a concluding arioso line. The second, the fifth movement, is comparatively "lighter in mood and spirit". It anticipates the melody of the final chorale setting.
The alto aria is accompanied by oboe and violin in parallel thirds and sixths. The movement includes several instances of word painting. Formally, the movement is an altered da capo aria. It has a "generally sunny affect ... only momentarily disturbed by more charged harmonies".