This long and re-fashioned secular cantata, has modest forces, -an ‘oboe-orchestra’, with an oboe d’amore option, 2 x flutes and a Violone concertante, alongside 4 part chorus/soloists + continuo, which are modestly and carefully used.
‘Rejoice, redeemed ones. Rejoice, in those pastures, of Zion. Your prosperity now has true foundations, on which you can be showered with blessings.’
The chorus is active, from the start of the opening ritornello, as this rondo-form structure, begins to unfold itself.
Simple, circumspect and uncomplicated praise is immediately, in the air, but at 33, the mood becomes reflective, as we contemplate the this sure foundation, we find ourselves on and the certainties of the blessings that that brings, 41, onwards.
Throughout, this movement is modest in its refusal to be overstretched, emotionally and it makes a sober opening to music for this feast day.
‘We are at rest. The burden, of the law, is gone. Nothing can disturb this, -which those before us, longed for. Rejoice, in God’s honour, with a song, of praise. And, in the heavenly choir, sing to each other.’
Listen-out, for the ‘…removal, of the law…’, descending arpeggio, 3, the ‘…longed for peace…’, a sigh, 6, the removal-of-the-law figuration, 7, trying very hard, to remove the peace, ‘Rejoice, in God’s honour’, 9/10 and the final ‘…heavenly choir…’ and communal singing.
‘Praised be God. Praised be His name, He, who has faithfully, kept His promises. His faithful servant, is born, who was, long ago, elected for this, that he should, ‘prepare-a-way for The Lord.’
This ‘feeling-good’ sung passpied of Handelian praise, with its triplets and hemiola is as relaxed as it can be.
A flexible and lightweight bass is definitely required, as getting stuck, on, for instance, ,…Name..’ 20+, and ,…gelobet…’, 50+, will never do.
At 72, the rhythmic line, is less predictable, as it becomes more thoughtful, about the task of way-fare preparing, that awaits. r
This is reflected, in the sheer enthusiasm, of 81, through 88, ‘…prepare the way, of The Lord’ and more-so, 105 through 120, complete with an adagio, ‘all-the-way-up’, cadenza.
‘The herald announces The King. He calls, so do not wait. Get ready, with swift steps and follow this voice. It points the way and shows the light, in which, we, one day, shall see those blessed pastures.’
This secco, must run-on, with as much breathlessness, as its swift steps, must follow and create.
listen-out, for the trumpet-call, 3 and those swift steps, 4, ‘…the way…’, 6 and ‘…the light…’, 7 and ‘…those blesses pastures…’, 8/9.
Come on, tempted sinners, hasten and run, children of Adam, your Saviour calls and cries. Lost sheep, arise, from a sinful sleep, because, the hour of grace, has arrived.’
The opening ritornello, bounds along, with a nimble and dainty accompaniment, -and with its 2 big beats to a bar, nicely seducing us, as it goes, and twice, via its off-beat approach, 1 through 4, putting it, -whatever it is, just out of reach, for most of us.
However, most or us are tempted, to hasten-and-run-with-it, the little hook, last quaver of the second crochet beat, bar 4, hook, line and sink-ering us, tempting us to run-along, to its triplet-y-mantra. Whatever it is, that is so exciting, is fickle enough, to be somewhat elusive, at 13/14.
The laughing voice finally gets in on the act, 16, only to crow and cry, almost in Wagnerian fashion, that The Saviour Himself, is calling and crying, to us.
As this set-up continues, the lines of engagement become confused, 32 through 48 and the lost sheep, 49 find themselves hastening and running along in a strange and scary world, of sinful sleep, -chromaticism, longer phrase lengths and news enough, to stop anyone, dead in their tracks, that, within all this, the hour of grace has now arrived.
But, despite lingering valkurie-like calls, reminder, and a very short cadenza/fermata, 74 through 94, on we bound, and with no shame.
‘A voice is making itself heard, far and wide -and in the wilderness, calling all humankind, to conversion: Prepare, all of you, the way, for the Lord, and make for Him, a smooth path. Let all the world, begin to raise every valley, so the mountains, may be made smooth.’
An emphasis is heard, on:
‘hearing, far and wide, conversion, and the way.
The ‘smooth path’ is helped along, by the nicely shaped alto line and similar, although more restrained, in the bass, 12, with the triumphant ‘let all the world…’
The ‘raising of every valley’, is not so smooth an operation as may be thought, 15-16 and yet, the presence, of A#, soon to be plain ‘A’, 17 and 18, in the altos, ensures that what once seemed to be, so much of an obstacle, is now become flattened.
‘And so, my Saviour, you intend faithfully, to uphold the covenant, that you have made, one with our fathers, to rule over us all, with grace. I will, with all my strength, endeavour, to serve you, my faithful God, -and at your command, in and with, holiness and Godly fear.’
This narrational and pledge-like, free-prayer has about it, partly because of its reliance upon reedy wind, a somewhat pleading and religious tone, as opposed to the free nature, that it seeks.
These winds present a ‘winey’ sort-of ostinato, a repetitive backdrop, to the sincerity, of this bass soloist, forcing him into an almost arietta style, even though he desperately wants the freedom to express himself, even more sincerely, than he does.
A stifling experience and one that Bach and all who seek freedom of worship, may be able, to identify with.
‘From now on, my God, I shall hate and abandon, all that is offensive to you. I will not up-set you, but will love you, -and with my heart, because you have been so good to me.’
Stoic and angular abandonment, are the order of the day and a constant change of dynamics, written into this scoring, shows an extreme mental and emotion response, as well, to the tasks ahead.
This oboe d’amore and its companion concertante violin, are not so much used, with a solo mentality, more an inner-part mentality, a reinforcement, to the center ground, rather than the extremities, a feature of the opening chorus, and the aria no 5, where the flute double or subsume.
Notice the 2nd fiddle/viola writing, 70, through 74.
A less angular and aggressive approach, -Schubertian, almost, is evident at 97, where a warmer language and a warmer heart, take the edge off, a human crusade, that has all the best intentions, but is grounded, far too much, in ‘hate’ and ‘abandon’, -42, through 58, none of which may be rooted, in any human possibilities.
Bach emphasis on inner part writing, may reflect his understandings of inner humanity, in greater ways, than even he might own-up to.
‘Even though inconsistency is linked with weak humanity, let is be said, that as often as one day dawns and another follows, I shall live, resolutely and firmly. Through my spirit, -and for your glory, my heart and mouth shall worship you, my God, according to the covenant, made with you, -and with well deserved praise.’
Another heroic and stoic outburst, and these secco proceedings, proceed, matter-of-fact, high-points, hi-lighting these ‘dawning days’ 4 and the glorification, heart and mouth, 10.
‘Hours, come quickly and come here. Bring me soon, to those happy, feeding pastures, where, along with, the rest of the heavenly host, I shall build-up, an alter of praise, -and also, in the tents of Kedar, until I am worn-out, with all my eternal gratefulness.’
A three-in-a-bar gigue, arresting, impatient and impetuous, the setting, for these words, is both, and at the same time, proactive and exhausting.
This is a big and building vision, its weightiness balanced by the thick and robust rhythmic and coloristic texture of unison first violins supported by similar continuo.
Impatient vocals, from the start are forward-moving, slowly at first, bars 13-14, picking up speed, 15 and pushing the vocal range, 17/18, 24/25, and almost glissandi, 35 through 39.
The high point is the new pasture, arrival, signalled by a fermata, 43 and possibly also, 47.
The middle section is less impatient, but no less impetuous, justifying itself with future tasks.
There is the feeling, that this is not over until exhaustion slows it all, to a complete standstill, but even the last line of words, ones of a desired gratefulness, seem driven to the end.
‘Have patience. That day can no longer be delayed, when all the torments and imperfections, of the earth, can still, hold-on, to my heart. You shall soon be free and your wish shall have come true, when all the redeemed souls, in that perfection, are freed, from this body-death and no more, shall affliction torment.’
Patience, is required and so, the opening word drops, in the humility of knowing and understanding, that this can only come from a higher authority.
That ‘welcome day..’ on a monotone, rises higher, as it nears and another drop signifies that freedom also emanates from highness, with that highness of voice, hi-lighting, imperfections.
The fulfilment, of the wish, drops again, for a similar reason and continues, with similar line, at freedom, from death.
The last line, ‘…no more torment..’ is turned, by Bach, into a line of adagio-arrietta, heart-led and heart- felt, impassioned, with the conviction, of a passion, a resigned approach to an end, only reached, by facing those very imperfections torments, themselves, and head-on.
‘Rejoice, redeemed ones. Rejoice, in those, pastures of Zion. The splendour, of your joy and contentment, shall last, for ever.’
This final movement, is a reprise, of the opening chorus, with an altered text.