The genesis and subsequent evolution, of this cantata, is uncertain.
Whether one or more movements preceded the opening duetto, what they were and even the question of who wrote them, are beyond the considerations of these short notes of guidance.
What we have in the Neuen Bach-Ausgabe, is a 5 movement work, where a standard orchestra, chorus and continuo, is joined, by a single flute and a single trumpet.
A short dialogue, in the form, of a duet, between tenor-Jesus and a soprano-soul:
J: ‘I live, my heart, for your delight. My life raises yours, up, on high.
S: You live, for my delight and you raise my life, on high.
BOTH: The plaintiff’s handwriting, of those original laws, is now torn up and destroyed. Peace procures, a calm conscience, -and, in so doing, opens up, to all sinners, the heavenly gate.’
A long, 16 bar introduction, featuring an unpredictable and sprightly, ‘ristic’ violin solo, leads on, to the first vocal, tenor/Jesus entry.
Then follows, 4 bars later, the second, soprano/soul entry, both texts, at first, running simultaneously and synchronising, at 29.
This continues with three ritornellos and a coda and during these, the solo fiddle takes control.
Vocal episodes, are supported by arpeggios and striking, fast, rising figurations, -for instance, 29, through 32, suggesting, perhaps, the mutual raising-up, of hearts, the high-point, or truth of the whole, being reached at 56, where we are informed, of the opening, to all sinners, of heaven’s gate.
This whole vocal experience, is all heart and delight, our two protagonists might be considered, as members of the commedia de l’arte, one perhaps playing the jaunty and sprightly fiddle, to the others charms.
The mood is light, French in style and character, with a surface frivolity, -perhaps typified in the crude and glissando-like slides, of the violin player, that masks some deeper truths, those of the achievements of Christ, during His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.
‘Now Moses, try to order us about, as you will, so that we will practise, your threatening law. But I have a receipt here, signed with the blood and wounds, of Jesus, -and it holds good for purpose. I am redeemed. I am set free. I now live, with God, in peace and unity. The plaintiff, is now, in me, confounded, for God, has risen up. My heart, do remember this!’
The somewhat aggressive and austere manner, of the opening, -an assertion, perhaps, of a new situation, almost a new balance of power, right up to bar 10, is followed by a change of sensibility.
The assertive opening, is replaced, by a short, closing prayer, honest and heartfelt, that the heart, must be reminded, to honour, the rhetoric.
‘Remember this, my heart, -and forever, even it you forget everything else: that your Saviour, is alive. Let this be the firm foundation, of your faith. For on this very fact, it shall remain and stand, firm. Remember this…’
A firm foundation indeed, and what do we see with our score and hear with our ears?
A unison D major arpeggio, 1-3, followed by similar, trumpeting, 4-11, an independent bass line, 4, providing linkage.
The whole of this movement, is all about, that remembering heart, the glissando-like rush, 32, is repeated, throughout, 5 more times, surely a reminder, to ‘check’ the motives of impetuousness, wherever and whenever, they may occur.
Firm foundations appear, 77 through 85 and 99 through, really to 122, where they support, the heroic text.
Their job is well done, for us, the listeners and them, the subjects, the faltering, who now, during the following Recitativo, seem to have grasped, the truth.
‘My Jesus lives and no-one can, -or shall, take this, away from me. I can die now, without grieving. I have trustworthy certainty, that the darkness, of the grave, shall raise me up, to heaven. My Jesus lives. I am now satisfied. Today, my heart and mind, shall enter, into heaven and gaze, upon The Redeemer.’
This is resolute stuff.
But is it reflected, as such, in Bach’s setting?
Well, partly, and as we begin, really, quite well, and right up, until talk, about ‘trust’.
Further talk of ‘grave-darkness’, has somewhat graver consequences, and certainly, shakes confidences.
‘My Jesus lives’, is a definite triumphant, but, again, -and very quickly, this time, questions arise, about this whole experience, of satisfaction’ and an upward, vocal struggle, is evident, as this soul, makes an attempt, at getting a really good look, at this Redeemer.
‘So, we are justly cheerful and sing our fine Alleluia, praising you, Lord Jesus Christ. For us and our comfort, you have risen. Alleluia.
-and a fine Alleluia, they do sing, one that is cheery and confidant.
But is is a rustic one and one in keeping, with the opening duetto and no doubt our rustic fiddler, joins in, rustically, with the soprano tune.
And no-doubt, as well, it is not only cheery and confidant, but comforting.
A definite settling, on A major, at ,…erstanden…’ can nicely pivot, onto a much more definite, and defining ending, that of, F# Major.