A lightweight orchestra, -Oboe d’amore, strings, and continuo, with organ, soloists, 4-part chorus, and that with a choral, reinforcing Corno, does not mean lightweight content.
An opening chorus, with ‘concertante Oboe d’amore, -a concerto-like movement, with a solo, concerto-like, obligato instrument, is followed by a short Tenor Recitativo and Aria, another recitativo, this time, for bass voice, an Aria Duetto, for Soprano and Alto, and final choral.
Incidental, all movements, bar the recits and final choral, are in three time.
‘I will not let my Jesus go, since He has given, His life, for me.
I am duty bound, to cling to him, like a bur.
He is the light of my life, I will not forsake Him.’
This 3-time dance, has fresh air and fresh vision, -and all that, with a confidant, dotted skip and stride, about it.
Light found in The Saviour, is reflected, in the light, tight bounce, found in this minuet, where a delicate, staccato continuo and a fluttering and sparkling Oboe, intertwining, via their opposites, leads us to understand, how the hooks and teeth, of a seed, are a shrewd way of teaching us, of that light, tight bounce, to be found, in the, sometimes unexpected attachment, to Christ.
We can be certain, that Bach, with his fresh vision, -and his fresh, wind-instrument air, has it, in his mind, that this chirpy little fellow, is perhaps one part of an idyllic picture, where a wind player, and a skilled one, at that, with his pipe, is indulging, in a moment, of carefree dancing, through the countryside, with the sheer joy of this Epiphany season, in his heart and lungs and on his lips, only to realize, eventually, that his trousers, are covered in these ‘hooked’ seeds.
As he notices this, all of a sudden, like a Blakeian vision, the sound of angels, join him, in this jaunty moment.
And what a sound it is.
In-fact, It could not be bettered, -just take a look, at that tenor part, as Bach throws, the full force of his musicianship and imagination, into this angelic moment, where homophony, with a subtle and tasteful variant, is the magic of the moment.
In fact, it is all so good, that the local huntsman picks up his horn and joins in with the tune, -as do we all, being swept up by the finger-twisting playing, of this, happy little Oboe chappy.
And so it just goes on…and on.
Listen out for those sticky and hooky burs, 67, -proceeded by sticky, tricky antiphonal trills, in strings and continuo, 59 through 65,
‘Klettenweis an ihm zu kleben,’
‘to cling or stick to Him, like a bur,’
where the lower voices,73, just cannot, stop clinging.
‘As long as blood stirs in me, Jesus alone shall be my life.
He, who does so much for me, all I can do, for Him, is to give Him, my body and my life, as a gift.’
Notice the tonality change, at the first mention of the name, of The Saviour, at 3.
‘And when the cruel and harsh stroke of death, weakens the senses and affects the limbs, when the day, hated by the flesh, brings with it, only fear and terror, my firm resolve, brings this comfort:
I shall not let my Jesus go.’
This day, that is loathed by the flesh, is confidently…and lyrically, faced, and head on, by this confident and stoic soul, who also happens. to also be, our lyrical Oboe player.
But, throughout, there is a persistent penetrating ostinato, accompanying every bar, shaping every bar and dominating every bar.
It seems, that those hooks, remembered from the opening chorus, have become meat hooks, not just sticking to the flesh, but tearing, deeply, into it,
As the soul sings of its faith, so the Oboe, weaves away, around and about, desperately trying to evade, this day of loathing.
But weave as it might, there is no escape.
At every opening beats, of every single bar, there is absolutely no escape, from those
‘…cruel strokes of death.’
Bach reflects all this in the vocal line:
Bar 11, long note on ,Todesschlag’ or death blows,
Bar 13 through 15, the senses and the limbs,
Bar 17 through 19, that, ‘…loathed day.’
Then, at 23, at ‘…the firm resolve,’ and the ‘…comfort’, voice and Oboe, find comfort and oneness of purpose, as they harmonize, together, in thirds.
This Aria, is a masterpiece of theater, literally getting right under the skin, of even the most hardened hides, perhaps equalled, only, in dramatic realism, by such, as Purcell or Schubert.
O dear! What hardships I am enduring. I am nothing, but a sort of, suffering wilderness, -and all because of this terrible impact, of the loss, of Jesus.
Even so, my spirit looks upwards, believing, -and to that place, from where, faith and hope, are shinning, and where, after my race is won, I shall embrace you, my Jesus, for evermore.’
A secco recit, where outline of words, is clearly reflected in the shape of the melodic line, but where, at 11, and,
,…Laufdich,’ the running meaning, of this running word, sets off this running, upward line, of a whole octave.
Music is the movement, of the body, as much as it is, the melody of the soul.
‘Hide, yourself, in haste, my soul, -and from this world. Only in heaven, will you find, your true contentment.
And only in that future, when your eyes, see your Saviour, will your longing heart, be refreshed and content, in Jesus.’
This charming and imitative, vocal duet, -sparsely accompanied, with only, bass continuo, is another, straightforward dancing-minuet, simple and almost naïf, running-scared, as it does, -almost scuttling, away from this world.
A hurrying heart, fleeing discontentment, to embrace contentment, away from this world, towards a heaven-led future.
These two seem so remarkably close, to each other, in their mirroring, of each other, -and a lingering emphasis, on ‘…pleasure,’ at 22, and ‘…true…’, for instance, may lead us to speculate, that it could all go, so very, badly wrong and we might, almost, be led to draw, some disastrous conclusions.
Luckily, in this case, Bach, with a decisive modulation, towards a serious key, F# minor, steers this increasingly, ‘doggy pair’, their proceedings, -and their roving eyes, back towards the direction, of the text, and we are all, thankfully, left in absolutely no doubt, at all, of their seriousness’s.
‘I shall not let go of my Jesus and I shall walk forever by His side. Christ shall forever guide me, into the stream of life. Blessed is anybody, who says, with me: I shall not let go, of my Jesus.’
In a world, where the word ‘perfect’ has become such an over-valued currency, this choral, seems, in every way, to be the epitome of Perfect, here presented by Bach, –and with such a full, vibrant and energized harmony, tastefully worked and with practically, every trick in the toolbox, thrown in, but so imaginatively crafted, in every single bar-, that it may, quite rightly and reasonably, be regarded, as a marvel.
This is, so-much-so, that any musician, -wanna-be or has-been, should get hold of a copy of it, and sleep with it, for the foreseeable, under his or her pillow.