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Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht (Do not be confounded, o soul), BWV 186, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it originally in Weimar in 1716 for Advent, BWV 186a, and expanded it in Leipzig in 1723 for the seventh Sunday after Trinity, where he first performed it on 11 July 1723.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the ministry of faithful apostles (1 Corinthians 4:1–5), and from the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist in prison (Matthew 11:2–10). The cantata is based on a cantata text written by Salomo Franck for the Third Sunday of Advent, published in Evangelische Sonn- und Fest-Tages-Andachten in 1717. His lyrics contained movements 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 of the later work and a different closing chorale of Ludwig Helmbold. Bach composed the music, BWV 186a, in 1716 in Weimar, where he first performed it on 13 December 1716.
The opening chorus is in rondo form, A B A B A. Section A treats the first line of the poem, section B lines 2 to 4. Section A is a complex combination of instrumental and vocal composition. The instruments open with a sinfonia of 8 measures, followed by a short vocal “Devise” (statement) which is repeated by the orchestra, and only then a fugal development begins, the vocal parts sometimes embedded in material from the sinfonia. The first repeat of section A is shortened in the sinfonia, the second repeat starts with the fugal part right away. In great contrast section B is seta cappella (only accompanied by the continuo) and partly homophonic.
The scoring of the four arias shows increasing complexity and also a rise from the lowest voice to the higher one, soprano and alto coming in only in the second part. The first aria is accompanied only by the continuo, the two next ones in a trio setting, and the final aria is a duet with orchestra. It resembles a Gigue, and the voices, saying “Laß, Seele, kein Leiden von Jesu dich scheiden” (“My soul, let no sorrow separate you from Jesus”), illustrate the meaning by mostly parallel movement.
The four recitatives all end as an arioso.
The chorale movements 6 and 11, ending the two parts of the cantata, are the same music, a chorale fantasia. The chorale is embedded in a concerto of the orchestra, the cantus firmus is given to the soprano, whereas the lower voices sing counterpoint in faster movement, sometimes in imitation.