For the 1st Sunday after Easter (Quasimodogeniti Sunday), 16 April 1724
To his normal Leipzig cantata orchestra, two oboes (here d’amore) and strings, Bach
adds a flute and a “corno da tirarsi” (a horn). Apart from the biblical opening
movement and the two chorales the author of the text is unknown. Once the voices
enter, the word Halt is always emphasized, and in the orchestral introduction a sustained
note is given to the horn; after two bars the oboes play together in unison a fugue
subject which is then taken up conspicuously by the horn. The flute merely doubles
the first violins or the first oboe. The sopranos sing a sustained note to Halt,
now doubled by the horn, and the violins and viola play the fugue subject together
in unison. As the voices now start a fugue, all the instruments except the continuo
fall silent before gradually joining in. Altogether this is a most exhilarating
movement. It is followed by a cheerful aria for tenor, accompanied by the flute
or – perhaps and – the first oboe and strings. The text combines joy at the resurrection
and lingering doubts. An alto recitative with a harsh text based on Hosea xiii
14 is followed directly by the first verse of Nicolaus Hermann’s 1560 Easter Hymn
Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag. The alto returns at once, still uneasy, but by
the end reassured.
This is followed by a extraordinary movement*; introduced by vigorous strings depicting
the raging of the enemies of the soul, after a chord for the flute and oboes and
a tempo change to a gentle triple time, the bass slowly sings Christ’s calming words
to His disciples in the Upper Room. The chorus (without the basses) sings cheerfully
against the return of the raging strings. Twice more the chorus breaks in, to be
calmed by the words of Jesus. All forces join together to close this remarkable
cantata with the first verse of Jakob Ebert’s 1601 hymn Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu
Christ, set to Bartholomäus Gesius’s melody from the same year.
* This remarkable movement, the climax to the cantata, belongs here, and most emphatically
not as the Gloria chorus in Bach’s Lutheran Mass in A, BWV 234. Understandably
Bach was fond of the movement; he should have restricted himself to reviving the
cantata in subsequent Easters!
October 1978 (J Byrt); May 1981 (T Brown); February 1993 (T Dean); May 1994 (C Brown);
February 2019 (C Brown).