Cantata BWV 136


2011, April 3

JS Bach Cantata BWV 136: Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz
(Search me, God, and learn my heart)
Eighth Sunday after Trinity July 18, 1723
Scoring: Horn, Oboe d'amore I,II, Violin I,II, Viola, Organ, Continuo
  Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
Bärenreiter vol 7; p 289
Reading: Epistle Romans 8:12-17
Reading: Gospel Matthew 7:15-23

Words: Unknown librettist
Bach Bibliography


Sacred Cantatas Vol 7
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Ensemble: Concentus Musicus Wien, Tölzer Knabenchor
Alto: Paul Esswood
Tenor: Kurt Equiluz
Bass: Walter Heldwein
Label Teldec 4509-91761-2
Date: 1983



Bach Edition (out of print)
Conductor: Pieter Jan Leusink
Ensemble: Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium
Soprano: Ruth Holton
Alto: Sytse Buwalda
Tenor: Nico van der Meel
Bass: Bas Ramsclaar
Label Brilliant Classics 93102/86
Date: 1999


Bach Cantatas vol 7
Conductor: Ton Koopman
Ensemble: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Alto: Bogna Bartosz
Tenor: Gerd Türk
Bass: Klaus Mertens
Label: Challenge 72207
Venue: Waalse Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 09/1997 - 10/1997
Release date: 08/09/2005


Bach Cantatas vol 11
Conductor: Masaaki Suzuki
Ensemble: Bach Collegium Japan
Soprano: Midori Suzuki
Countertenor: Kai Wessel
Tenor: Makoto Sakurada
Bass: Peter Kooij
Label: Bis 991
Release Date: 02/15/1999


Missa brevis in A major, BWV 234
Soprano: Agnès Mellon
Countertenor: Gérard Lesne
Tenor: Christoph Prégardien
Bass: Peter Kooy
Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
Orchestra/Ensemble: Ghent Collegium Vocale, Ghent Collegium Vocale Orchestra
Release Date: 06/05/2001
Label: Virgin Classics 91118




Dürr p 453-456
Whittaker vol 1 p 349-354
Green p 301-303
Terry vol 2 p 398
Stephen A. Crist in Boyd p 156


1 Chorus: Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz; prüfe mich und erfahre, wie ichs meine!

Green says the horn part is critical and very difficult, requiring an expert player. Twenty years later this piece was reworked into the Cum Sancto Spiritu from the Mass in A Major BWV 234.
Compare with the first movement, here in an mp3 file.
You can find more information here.

Dürr says of this piece that it is of indifferent quality and exhibits a certain lack of purposefulness in its development. Whittaker says in spite of the splendid and animated counterpoint, it fails to grip.

Some musicians are dissatisfied with this work, but most find it pleasant listening. Stephen Crist finds the music at odds with the text. In the process of making the videos for YouTube, I have listened to it many times and have grown very fond of the entire cantata.

2 Tenor recitative: Ach, daß der Fluch, so dort die Erde schlägt

Straight secco statement.

3 Alto aria: Es kömmt ein Tag

Green says this part contains a prominent and fairly difficult oboe d'amore solo. Crist (in Boyd) says that there is some evidence that this piece was composed earlier.

4 Bass recitative: Die Himmel selber sind nicht rein

Again a straight declaration.

5 Tenor bass aria: Uns treffern zwar der Sünden Flecken,

Bach calls for violin I,II in unison; Green recommends treating as a solo part, calls it very difficult. Dürr part imitative and part homophonic writing for the voices, this movement closely resembles the secular duets of the Cöthen years. Whittaker p352 says of this section: The tenor bass duet is not devoid of charm, but it is not a success as a whole and is evidently patched up from some previous work.

6 Chorale: Wo soll ich fliehen hin verse 9

Discussion of chorale on Bach
C.S. Terry comments on the chorale in a PDF excerpt

Horn doubles soprano; it goes above the standard range for modern instrument here and in part one. Green says the horn part may require editing.

The music

BWV 136.1 and 136.2 Koopman
BWV 136.3 and 136.4 Koopman
BWV 136.5 and 136.6 Koopman
Music on Bach

Cum Sancto Spiritu from BWV 234
Here is a PDF file of the Sanctus in old clefs.

BWV 136.1 mp3
Here is a PDF file of BWV 136.1 in old clefs

Instruments and voices for each part

Section Instruments, voices
1 Chorus, oboe, oboe d'amore, violin I,II, viola, continuo (NBA: organ)
2 Tenor recitative, continuo (NBA: organ)
3 Alto aria, oboe d'amore, continuo (NBA: organ)
4 Bass recitative, continuo (NBA: organ)
5 Tenor bass duet aria, violin I,II, continuo (NBA: organ)
6 Chorale SATB, violin I obbligato with descant melody, horn, oboe I,II with soprano, violin II with alto, viola with tenor, continuo (NBA: organ)


Biblical references for each part

References for the text: King James Bible

  Scripture Text
1 Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts
1 Psalm 139:23 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz; prüfe mich und erfahre, wie ich's meine



Emmanuel Notes BWV 136.
Emmanuel Translation BWV 136.

Discussion from Bach Cantatas Website.
Recordingsfrom Bach Cantatas Website. discussion, Simon Crouch.
John Eliot Gardiner Cantatas Recording.

WikiPedia article
From Julian Mincham

The Complete Cantatas
Barenreiter cat# TP 2004

Enter TP2004 in full text search box on the left.

This Website

This web site offers free midi, QT, MusicXML and PDF files of Bach's four-part harmonized chorales. They can be downloaded individually or in complete sets. Be aware that other sites offering files downloaded from this site in the past may not have current updates. Please see Chorale Editions, File Accuracy.


The revision is complete. Please read about tenor clef.

The old list of updates and corrections can be found in the Corrections Archive.


  • Locations of visitors to this page


  Made with a Mac         Made with Finale from Coda          Made with QuickTime from Apple          Checked with W3C Validator