This aria formulates two questions with which we imagine Peter is wrestling. The restless jagged dotted rhythms which pervade the string parts give us the impression of Peter’s despair. The words of this aria are heavily based (and probably adapted by Picander) on the first verse of a poem by the Leipzig University librarian and author Christian Weisse (1642-1708) entitled Der weinende Petrus (The Weeping Peter). The violins, violas and cellos of the baroque period were much less powerful instruments than those of today, having a lower bridge and being played with a shorter, lighter bow, resulting in a softer and less penetrating sound. Players would have used vibrato very sparingly, to embellish longer notes as an ornament, rather than as a technique to influence sound quality. The combination of these factors would have made for an easier separation of notes in faster passages of this aria than modern instruments can usually achieve. 




Ach, mein Sinn, wo willt du endlich hin, wo soll ich mich erquikken?

Bleib ich hier, oder wünsch ich mir Berg und Hügel auf den Rükken?

Bei der Welt ist gar kein Rat, und im Herzen stehn die Schmerzen meiner Missetat, 

weil der Knecht den Herrn verleugnet hat. 

Oh, my soul, where shall you go, where shall I find comfort?

Do I remain here, or do I wish for the hill and mountain on my back?

The world can offer no remedy, and in my heart lies the pain of my misdeed,

because the servant has denied his master. 

This chorale, which starts as a narrative and turns into a prayer, is harmonised with very modern chord progressions for its time. It gives a sense of unease as the first part of this work comes to a close. Small and subtle appoggiaturas and melismas on words such as weinet (weeps), and büßen (repent) paint the words, and the unexpected chord on the word Böses (evil) must have been quite startling to the congregation. The words, published in Leipzig in 1633, are the tenth stanza of a hymn by Paul Stockman (1602-1636). The melody is by Melchior Vulpius (1566-1615). Bach draws on it again in movements 56 and 60. 




Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück,

seinen Gott verneinet,

der doch auf ein’ ernsten Blick

bitterlichen weinet.

Jesu, blikke mich auch an,

wenn ich nicht will büßen;

wenn ich Böses hab getan,

rühre mein Gewissen!  

Peter, who does not cast his mind back,

denies his God, 

and yet, at a stern glance, 

weeps bitterly.

Jesus, cast your eye on me too,

if I will not repent;

if I have done evil,

touch my conscience!

End of Part 1

Part 2

The second part begins as the first part ended, with an affirming chorale sung by the chorus, now representing the faithful believers and followers of Christ. The words for this opening chorale of part two are from a Latin hymn by Michael Weisse (1480-1534). The melody was published in Leipzig in 1531, but the composer is unknown. Again, Bach’s harmony is daring, chromatic and unpredictable.




Christus, der uns selig macht, 

kein Bös’ hat begangen,

der ward für uns in der Nacht

als ein Dieb gefangen,

geführt für gottlose Leut

und fälschlich verklaget,

verlacht, verhöhnt und verspeit,

wie denn die Schrift saget.

Christ, who makes us blessed,

has committed no sin.

He was taken as a thief

for us in the night,

led before godless people

and falsely accused,

mocked, scorned and spat upon,

as scripture tells.