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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Amore Traditore (Love, you traitor)

Cantata BWV 203, BC G 51

  • Secular cantata for an unknown occasion
  • Editions: BG 11.2; NBA I/41
  • Rating: 2+

Amore Traditore is a really weird one! One of only two surviving Italian secular cantatas (the other is BWV 209), with solo voice accompanied only by harpsichord. Listening to it today, one is not surprised that for a long time its authenticity was in doubt. However, scholarly opinion seems to have fallen on the side of authenticity, aided by the quality of the work and by a record of the work's existence and provenence in 1764 and 1765 catalogues from Breitkopf. The work itself survives only in nineteenth century copies. So, we're left with this singular example hinting of others that may have been lost from Bach's Cöthen days.

There are only two arias, separated by a recitative, both bemoaning (in bad Italian) the fickleness of love. The first is rather routine but the second certainly hints at genius and I find it rather surprising that this aria doesn't re-surface in other works. (Of course, it's possible that Bach did re-use it and the recipient has itself been lost). Thankfully, in in its current form it's still quite easy to imagine a full orchestral accompaniment and something really splendid made out of this movement!

Copyright © 1999, Simon Crouch.