Halt’ im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ

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.

© David Houston


1.  Chorus

Halt’ im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ, der auferstanden    Remember . Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead

                                                  ist von der Toten.        


 2 Timothy ii 8          AV


2.  Aria (Tenor)

Mein Jesus ist erstanden,                                        My Jesus has risen,

allein, was schreckt mich noch?                              so why should I still be afraid?

Mein Glaube kennt des Heilands Sieg,                     My faith knows the Saviour’s victory,

doch fühlt mein Herze Streit und Krieg,                   and yet my heart feels strife and war;

mein Heil, erscheine doch!                                     appear, o my Saviour!


3.  Recitative (Alto)

Mein Jesu, heißest du des Todes Gift                      My Jesus, your name means poison to death

und eine Pestilenz der Hölle:                                   and pestilence to hell:

ach, daß mich noch Gefahr und Schrecken trifft!     Oh, how danger and terror still afflict me!

Du legtest selbst auf unsre Zungen                         You yourself have placed on our tongues

ein Loblied, welches wir gesungen:                          a song of praise which we have sung:

Leading  to  4.  Chorale

Erschienen ist der herrlich’ Tag,                             The glorious day has come;

dran sich Niemand g’nug freuen mag:                     no one can rejoice enough at it;

Christ, unser Herr, heut’ triumphiert,                       Christ our Lord triumphs today;

all’ sein’ Feind’ er gefangen führt.                          he leads all his enemies captive.

Alleluja        Alleluja!

                                                 Nicolaus Hermann, 1560


Leading  to  5.  Recitative (Alto)

Doch scheinet fast, daß mich der Feinde Rest,           Yet it almost seems that my remaining enemies,

den ich zu groß und allzuschrecklich finde,                 whom I consider too great and too frightening,

nicht ruhig bleiben läßt.                                             are not letting me rest in peace.

Doch, wenn du mir den Sieg erworben hast,               However, if you have won the victory for me,

so streite selbst mit mir, mit deinem Kinde!                 please fight with me, your child!

Ja! ja! wir spüren schon im Glauben                          Yes, yes, we already feel in faith

daß du, o Friedefürst,                                                that you, O Prince of Peace

dein Wort und Werk an uns erfüllen wirst.                 will fulfil your word and works in us.



6.  Aria (Bass  & Chorus)*

Friede sei mit euch!                                                   Peace be unto you!

Wohl uns!  Jesus hilft uns kämpfen,                             Happy are we!  Jesus helps us to fight,

und die Wut der Feinde dämpfen.                                and to subdue the fury of our foes.

Hölle, Satan, weich’!                                                  Hell, Satan, back!

Friede sei mit euch!                                                    Peace be unto you!

Jesus holet uns zum Frieden                                       Jesus brings us to peace

und erquicket in uns Müden                                        and in our tiredness revives

Geist und Leib zugleich                                              our spirits and bodies at the same time.

Friede sei mit euch!                                                   Peace be unto you!

O Herr! hilf und laß gelingen                                      O Lord, help us and let us succeed

duch den Tod hindurch zu dringen                               in passing through death to reach

in dein Ehrenreich!                                                    your glorious kingdom!

Friede sei mit euch!                                                   Peace be unto you!


7.  Chorale

Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ,                                 You Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ,

wahr’r Mensch und wahrer Gott,                                 true man and true God,

ein starker Nothelfer du bist                                        you are a strong deliverer

im Leben und im Tod:                                                 in life and death:

drum wir allein im Namen dein                                   so we only, in your name,

zu deinem Vater schreien.                                         cry out to your Father.

                                                                       Jakob Ebert, 1601


Translation by Christopher Ray


* 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!





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