Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

-Feast of the purification of the blessed virgin Mary-Wednesday 2nd February 2022-J.S.Bach cantata BWV 83 ,Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde’-

Jan 29, 2022

A 5 movement cantata, where the chorus participates, only in the final closing choral.

A standard orchestra, -strings, continuo and a pair of Oboes, is supplemented, with two horns, and unusually, a solo violin, described in the score, as concertanto.

An opening Alto aria, is followed, by a unique Tenor interlude, being an Aria-Recitativo-Arioso movement, a subtle setting of the nunc dimittis, this leading straight on, into his full-blown Aria.

A very short but memorable secco-recit follows, leading into, the final closing and tutti Choral.


‘A joyous time, at this time, -a new order, when our faith holds Jesus, in our midst.

How joyfully and wonderfully, -and at the final hour, will our resting place, -finally, the grave, be prepared.’

This superb movement, sets itself up, for this festive occasion, with both tight structure and musical enlightenment, where an opening ‘french-feel’, is offset and balanced, by interlocking horns and Oboes, this totality, encased, and swaddled, by a concerto-like concertato fiddle, weaving and wending its ways, like a comely and comforting glue, -surely, the ‘…Jesus, in our midst?’

Even without de-rigor, ultimate festive accoutrements, -those obligatory trumpets and drums, this is festive stuff alright and guaranteed to wash away any new-year blues, still left, hanging around, in this new order, virgin, or otherwise.

Our brave and bold singer, has, unfortunately, a high bar to leap, set in music, rather than in stone, by such a fine and flexible fiddler. Imitation is the name of this game and off she imitatively goes, rising and falling, on wings of song and fountains of faith.

We all can only marvel at the totality of it all.

At 64 and:

‘How joyfully…our resting place, the grave…’

the orchestra retreats back and the singer takes up, perhaps what may be described as, the accompanying ritornello style, first seen in the Oboe parts, of the first vocal episode.

The mood darken,s at mention of ‘our resting place the grave‘ and drops in pitch, reference of interment, complete with a chuckle, at its prior preparation.

One final point.

The concertanto fiddle part, at 64, takes on the attitude of ‘bariolarge’, where the player alternates, rapidly, between open and stopped strings, bringing a much different tonal ‘feel’ to the sound world.

It has been suggested, that Bach is here bringing to mind, the tolling bells of the death knell.

Bye-the-way, singing teachers, please do embrace all these challenging arias, that so cleverly and musically, put any voice through its paces, training and toning, with such variety, to the highest levels, as they go. They are all relatively unknown but as a whole, surely represent an untapped supply of superlative teaching material.

In a dummer and dummer world, where Music is at the mercy of so much capitalistic and celebrity cult, this Music raises, at the least, not only the gymnastics bar, but also the musical one.

We must all try out best to keep-up with Bach and jump a lot lot higher.


‘Lord, now lettest thou, thy servant, depart in peace, according to thy word..’

‘What seems terrible to us, is in-fact, life giving. Death brings this time of trouble, to an end, -a promise The Lord has given us, as a token and he means well and will lead us, -when this fight is over, towards a time of peace.

Now that The Saviour is a comfort, to our eyes, -the heart’s refreshment, if you like, it is no wonder, that the heart forgets its fear of death.

With joy, it can say:’

‘Mine eyes…’

A movement, standing alone in Bach and one that looks right forward to Wagner, where Aria and recitativo fuse, into continuous melody.

A thinly scored, but rich and full sound, prepares us for those familiar opening words, intoned, certainly at the start, on nearly one continuous note, the accompaniment formed, by an initially simple, 2-part counterpoint, leading between continuo and top strings. The 2 beat bar flow, -two/four and six-eight time, drops, seamlessly, in and out, in-fact three times, as our singer muses and comments, noting some but not all important textual moments. A careful glance, at the score will hi-light exactly how Bach assesses and reflects, his text.

Impressively, all these moments, musings and metre changes, do not in any way, seem to disturb the twist and turn, of text and music.


‘Hasten heart, full of joy and before that throne of grace, you shall receive comfort and obtain mercy. At times of sorrow, pray long and hard and be strong in Spirit.’

The written-in Lully-like foot-stamp-start, gets this movement going.

This, a strings/continuo affaire, catapults this wanna-be solo violinist, right onto the limelight and although written in common time, is surely a 12/16 movement, where this fiddler’s controlled, but running triplet, moto-perpetuo, festoon’s this Aria, with the sort of rushing and hastening joy, towards that throne of grace, which this text enthuses, in both singer and listener.

Notice, at bar 4, where this fiddler get himself or herself, into a real pickle, where 3 bars of 2/,8 mean that we start the next ‘moto’ moment, on the wrong beat…. or is it the wrong moment?

We are out and must, somewhere and sometime, get back in again.

Bach to the rescue!

End of bar 5 through 7 are really, free-for-all-drops, where all, including the conductor, must just ‘bat-on’, with the beat and hope that somebody will, not just get back i,n somewhere, but get back-in, at the right somewhere, drawing all, back into line.

Bach is that person, the composer, who, with absolute ease, turns it all, into a moment, of pure and memorable, metaphysics.

The vocal addition follows suite, with this ‘moto-fiddler’ and sets off, on a display of coloratura, guaranteed to wet the appetite and loosen the belt, of any Sunday morning Tenor.

Off he goes, firstly, with his opening rally and shout and then, continuing on, in ‘fiddle’ vein.

But there is a mixture, of that coloratura and expressive line, in all these vocal insertions, the middle section becoming more thoughtful and coming to a complete stop, at 52, ‘…pray long and hard and be strong, in the spirit.’


‘Though your faith is still aware, of much darkness, your Saviour can scatter and disperse, all those shadows, of doubt.

When this grave’s night, fills these final hours, with dread, you shall certainly recognise, His bright light, in death.’

A straight forward setting, of a straight forward text.

But do note the ‘musical tone-colour, in the setting of the last line, ‘His bright light, in death.’


He is the Salvation and the blessed light, to and for, the gentiles, to enlighten those, who do not know you and to nurture them.

He is the praise, honour, joy and gladness, of your people Israel.’

The sound of this choral seems, considering the text, bleak and foreboding.

Light does appear in the first line, in the form of an E major flavour, in an a minor world, which quickly raises it 3rd to C#, at the mention of the gentiles.

The uncertain insecurity, of a ‘not-knowing’, is reflected, in the insecurity of the chromatic instability, at 6.

‘Nurturing’ or shepherding, 7 through 8, lands us, up in the sub-mediant of an F major, certainly unexpected, but certainly rock-solid, in its own way…and own world.

The D major ending, with that raised 3rd, reflects the, ‘Preis, Ehr, Freud und Wonne’ of the peoples.

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