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Amore traditore (Treacherous love), BWV 203,[a] is a secular cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in Köthen between 1718 and 1719, while he was in the service of the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen. Bach wrote the unusual work on an Italian libretto for a bass soloist and harpsichord.


After an extended period at the court of Weimar, Bach was Kapellmeister at the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen between 1717 and 1723,[1] directing a qualified musical ensemble.[2] As the court was Reformed, he had no obligations to compose church music, but focusd on instrumental works. He had no choir at his disposition, but several excellent singers who sometimes stayed for a short period.[3] He later wrote about this period:

There I had a grracious Prince, who both loved and knew music, and in his service I intended to spend the rest of my life.[4]

History and textEdit

Bach composed this cantata in Köthen in 1718 or 1719 for an unknown occasion.[5] Its librettist and first performance are also unknown.[5] Unusually for Bach, the text is Italian; only one other cantata (BWV 209) has Italian text.[6] The text is very similar to the text of a cantata by Nicola Fago.[5]

The composition of Amore traditore may have been prompted by the visit of Johann Gottfried Riemschneider, a famous bassist, at the court in Köthen in 1718-19.[3] Bach wrote a work to entertain, and to showcase two musicians, the singer and a virtuoso harpsichordist.[3]

Scoring and structureEdit

The cantata is based on the Italian solo cantata tradition.[7] It is structured in three movements, alternating arias and a connecting recitative, and scored for a solo bass and keyboard (and possibly cello or viola da gamba).[6]

  1. Aria: Amore traditore
  2. Recitative: Voglio provar
  3. Aria: Chi in amore ha nemica la sorte


The first aria includes a flowing bass line and strong ritornello theme. The movement is in da capo form and features long melismas and a very high vocal range. The secco recitative is short but not harmonically cohesive. The final movement is also a da capo aria, with three lines of counterpoint and a complex keyboard part.[6]



  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 20.
  2. ^ Jones 2013, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c Wolff 2002, p. 201.
  4. ^ Wolff 2002, p. 202.
  5. ^ a b c "Amore traditore BWV 203; BC G 51 / Secular cantata (unknown purpose)". Bach Digital. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian. "Treacherous Love". The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Amore traditore / Italien / Schütz / Händel / Bach" (PDF) (in German). Barocktrio Gotthold Schwarz. 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2019.

Cited sourcesEdit

External linksEdit