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Adam by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Detail from Adam by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1530

It is likely that the solo cantata Widerstehe doch der Sünde (BWV 54) was performed for the first time three hundred years ago on 15 July 1714 in the Palace Church in Weimar. While the 1711 text by Georg Christian Lehms was originally intended for use on the third Sunday in Lent, Alfred Dürr suggests that Bach realized that its exhortations against sin applied equally well to one of the readings for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, clearing the way for its appearance in July.

The twelve-minute cantata is written in three movements for an alto soloist accompanied by two oboes, two violins, two violas and basso continuo.

Some reconstructions of Bach’s St. Mark Passion (BWV 247) include portions of Widerstehe doch der Sünde, and in 1962 Glenn Gould recorded the cantata’s continuo part on a “harpsipiano,” a grand piano modified to sound somewhat like a harpsichord. The lyrical writing and modest scoring of the cantata have inspired numerous arrangements of the work, including a concerto for English horn.

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