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BWV 14 is one of the latest extant Bach cantatas we have, dating from Jan. 30, 1735. The text’s constantly recurring theme is the need of God′s protection against our enemies. The two outer movements use texts by Martin Luther based on Psalm 124 (a hymn of deliverance and communal thanksgiving), while the inner movements have an anonymous text with vivid imagery of the battle God’s people find themselves threatened by.
Our selection from this cantata is the delightful soprano aria, “Unsre Stärke heißt zu schwach,” which features Kay Johannsen and the kind of magnificent Bach trumpet flourishes, in the style of corno da caccia (hunting horn), that I love so much. It is the only section of the cantata written in the major mode. With confidence and joy, she sings of the Lord’s help and banishes the dark mood set in the opening chorus.
Unsre Stärke heißt zu schwach,
Unserm Feind zu widerstehen.
Stünd uns nicht der Höchste bei,
Würd uns ihre Tyrannei
Bald bis an das Leben gehen.
Our strength is said to be too weak
To withstand our enemy.
If the Highest did not stand by us
their tyranny would
Soon touch our very life.
Text by Martin Luther, Anonymous