In scoring this short cantata, Bach reinstates the Violincello-piccolo, along with 2 x oboes, and a da caccio option, although 4 players are needed, 4 solo singers, with strings and continuo. All come together, except perhaps the VC-p, (who knows?) for the final choral.
‘They shall put you out of the synagogues and a time will come, when, whoever kills you, will think they are doing God, a service.’
Bach’s spectacular use of only, woody winds, immediately sets a scene of potential horror.
The harmony, ‘a’ minor to ‘B’ major, is equally chilling and the relatively wide spacing of the instrumental parts, along with their determined chromaticism, over a droning bass, sets a scene of barbarism.
Note the grinding vocal Bb, against the continuo A, on ‘…tötet…‘, bar 3.
This opening acts as a prelude or Vorspiel, to the horrors contained, in the following two numbers.
‘I do not fear, the terror, of death, or run, from adversity. The arm of Jesus, shall protect me and I shall willingly and gladly, follow Him. Those of you who kill me and believe, that in doing so, are doing God, a service, He shall reward you. In this case, I shall be content.’
The wandering ways, of this ‘cello-piccolo, as it meanders around and about, starting out, as if at the foot of an enormous obstacle, in its ‘e’ minor tonality, sets the scene for this text, that of a total loneliness and almost desolation, all in the face of wandering about, in terror and adversity.
The opening bars, through to the middle of 5, form perhaps only 2 phrases, the first, 3 notes long, the last, 4 bars in total. And they contain 2 ideas, which figure, throughout the VP, and the vocal part:
-semiquaver up beat, with dotted quaver + semiquaver rhythm,
-long half+3+half bars phrase.
The ‘terror of death’ and ‘adversity’ are punctuated, intermittently, with this rhythmic figure and the semiquaver wandering, forms the main bulk of vocal-wail, cheering itself up, from 10 onwards, filling in missing notes, with grace notes, almost glissando-like, as the mood takes. The first 2 lines of text, exhaust themselves, at 24, by which time, every shape of terror, adversity, and angst, has been vocally explored and exercised.
At 28, the mood seems to flatten-out, as the ‘…arm of Jesus…’ extends itself.
The pace, metre and musical shape, does not and ‘…willingly and gladly…’, though wailed in triumph, 31 through 32, seems to be thought…and sung, through gritted teeth.
33, through 41, is a remarkable and beautiful passage, where revenge, without any guile, does indeed, seem to be, a dish served, not cold, as in these bars, but chilled, 42, through to the return.
‘I am ready to give life and blood, for you, my Saviour. My entire being, shall be dedicated, to you, and I will comfort myself, that your Spirit, will stand by me, in the event, that is should, perhaps become all too much.’
A ‘halo’, of strings, present the underling textual climate, of support, as alternate and antiphonal, pairs of oboe d’amor and oboe-not, interject, rhythmically, -a rhythm that sets the uneasy vocal heart-beat, up to 3, the first mention, of The Saviour, perhaps pangs of the ‘all-to-muchness’, last line of text, as it pokes and prods, at this worried soul.
Spiritual comfort, dawn, is celebrated, at 6 and it is of interest, that this last vocal phrase, 9, is sung, without the string-halo…
‘Highest comforter, Holy Spirt, who teaches me the ways, in which I must walk, help my weakness, with your prayers, because I just cannot pray myself.’
This reality-prayer marks a mood-change, in this cantata, from faithless concern, to faithful abandon.
A minuet with a difference, in that our soubrette, is required to shuffle, on the first beat, of every other bar, only difficult the first time around, as there are no previous beats are available, to wind-up on.
Subsequent repetitions, are perhaps easier to come in on, even without a partner to lend that stabilizing, helping hand.
It is a long dance, but the energized caccia, bring fuel to the fires of faith, coming in for a late shuffle, 39, and thus driving onwards and literally upwards, at 51 and the extended shuffle, 56, ends, this time, with a few walking paces, ‘…Darauf ich wandeln soll…’
The Highest Comforter, is matched by the (nearly) highest voice, and we are treated to a measures sample, of what can be done, with some light and tasteful coloratura, 60, through 70.
As a result of this show, the orchestra shuffles and skips, in appreciation.
At 78, even the continuo get their feet moving, as infirmity takes hold of our singer and she is unable to do more than a few semiquavers, they are willing to step into the breech and keep that forward momentum, going forward. This is achieved, as this shuffling measure is, with some desperation, thrown between caccia, violin and continuo. The rhymic stability is challenged, 2 shuffles on the 2nd/3rd beats, violin 1, 80, and the frantic footwork of the continuo players, 99/100, as the singer becomes preoccupied, by her failings.
The decorum is saved, just, after a hemiola, 106-6, by the time we reach 107-8 and the return.
‘You are the Spirit, that teaches us how to pray well. Your praying is intense and your singing sounds good, rising, as it does, up to heaven, without stopping, until He, -who alone has help to give, has offered it.’
An almost ornamented turn, -2nd beat of bar 3, hi-lights teaching, …or, if you like, learning, and hearing, as vital components, of society and civilization.
The absence of any real move towards some major tonality, suggests some uncertainty that what is sung, may in fact be true.
This changes and just in time, last beat, of 15, just as help is acknowledged and received.