The distinctive sound and color, of a trio of oboes, -2 x d’amore and one caccia, with a single clarion/tromba, heads-up this string orchestra, complete with 4-part choir and continuo, although for the 2 arias and 2 recitativo, Bach uses only tenor and alto soloists.
This is deliberate and is, I believe, related to the chosen orchestral colours, which verge on the autumnal.
‘Give to The Lord, the glory due to His name. Worship The Lord, in the beauty of holiness.’
This text absolutely finds its musical representation, in this fine opening music, -so fine in fact, that we perhaps, are in danger of missing it, unless we do give it our all, in concentration and attention.
The somewhat top-heavy mix and weave is supported by a strong bass- line-loom and if the ritornello writing was not fine enough, the choral writing is certainly magnificent and ecstatic, -and worthy of very close study.
Glory, Worship and Holiness it certainly is.
The festive autumnal and ‘woody’ colors, are evident and certainly all types of oboe would appear in the mix, doubling strings, although this is not specifically indicated in the score.
Bach is cleaver, isn’t he, in that the second fugue subject, bar 73, is derived from the second half of the first, bar 5.
You may wish to do something that some of the original congregation may have wished to do, but were not able to do: listen to it again.
The trouble is, with so many of Bach’s Sunday morning offerings, by the time you realize its good, …its gone!
-and even if the Kapellmeister had agreed to oblige, the authorities certainly wouldn’t have been so obliging.
‘I rush to hear the teachings of life, and with joy, seek the holy house. How beautifully the joyful ringing, summons the blessed, to praise The Lord.’
There really is no stopping this hastening violinist, whose enthusiastic fiddling energizes the summoning of the blessed.
The intensity generated, 16 through 20, fuels a sort-of obsessional devotion, which, although serious, is never intense of wearing, but joyful and playful.
The nature of the obbligato, allows the tenor much time for contemplation.
The sections are long and expansive but equally, the singing requires control and stamina, for example, 35, through 48.
This hastening is measured and stopping places abound, as the continuo is only too aware of, 6, through 8.
‘As the deer pants for water, so I cry to you. There is no one but you, to give me the utter and total peace. How sacred and precious, is your Sabbath. I praise your strength, in the congregation of the righteous. If only sinners would reflect on this loveliness, for God himself, dwells in me.’
The cry to God, so cleverly integrated, into the music, bar 2 leads right into the utter and total peace, of bars 4, through 5.
From here, we appreciate the Sabbath and divine might, in the congregation, but it is the next line, that of profound reflection, -on the simple fact, that God lives, within me, that truly expresses and sums-up, this quite mystical setting.
‘Almighty God, my mouth and heart, are open, for you. Please immerse yourself in them. I in you and you in me, -faith, love, forbearance and hope, shall be my bed, of rest and peace.’
The organs, the mouth and heart, run of breath and wind, the one on air of the breath and the other, the wind of the spirit.
Therefore, it is natural, for Bach to call upon the formidable winds at his disposal, in this cantata, for this setting. The clarino is absent as this would introduce an inappropriate colour into this mix, which, along with the alto sound, this woody ensemble captures these two organs and the immersing of The Almighty, into them.
There is a certain medieval rustic-ness, to these proceedings and the windy sound, already organ-like, is augmented by an organ continuo and I myself, might quite possible requisition any passing bassoonist, to join and boost the merry rustic throng.
Like the three musketeers + two, they trip along, 1-for-all-and-all-for-one, resting on and in, this bed of faith and love and forbearance and hope.
Bach gives plenty of space, for that breath to be energised, in the breathing spaces, of both the body and the spirit.
At the mention of the war-cry of these instruments, -faith, love, etc, bar 53, a foreboding descends. But the imitative passage, 41 through 44 reaffirms the vision, although, those sinister forebodings do continue up to the triumphant da capo.
‘Abide in me and grant your Spirit. May it direct, -according to your word, that I may lead a pleasing life, so that, after this time and in your glory -and with you, I make keep the Sabbath of complete rest.’
This straight forward setting, -rising to the heights, of glory, bar 7, is simple, in its setting of these words, that look forward to and celebrate, the great Sabbath, of rest, to come.
‘Amen, at every hour, do I say it, -and from my heart. Lord Jesus, please be willing to guide, at every moment, so that we may praise your name, for ever. Amen.’
Note the ‘nic’ in the heart, at 3, soprano/alto and similar, last beat, 9, ‘…praise the name…’.
This is a beautiful setting, but, again, with another ‘nic’, the strident third, in that last bar, giving the impression that the sopranos, not the tenors, own the A#.
Is it too much to think that we may, sometimes, overstretch ourselves, in our devotions?