Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

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Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 82a

Ich habe genug, BWV 82, was composed for the festival of the Purification of the Virgin Mary on 2 February 1727. The original version is scored for bass soloist and oboe. Its repeated performances in various versions give proof of Bach’s own high appraisal of this cantata: 1731, in E minor, for soprano and oboe, 1735 for alto and flute, before resorting back in a later version to the bass voice, but now with oboe da caccia. The version heard today combines two of the authentic variants in a reconstruction for soprano and flute. The centerpiece of the cantata, the so-called “Schlummerarie” (Slumber Aria), appears to have been especially popular within Bach’s family circle; it was included in the second “Notebook for Anna Magdalena” begun in 1725.

At the center of the Feast of the Purification of Mary is the gospel according to Luke 2, 22–33 with the story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the associated meeting with the old man Simeon. According to a prophecy Simeon ‘should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ’. Now he recognizes in Jesus the promised Messiah, takes him in his arms and utters the words: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation…’ This, ‘Simeon’s song of praise’, is the point of departure for the cantata libretto. In the first aria the narrator of the text embodies the figure of Simeon and then, in the following recitative, assumes the role of a present-day Christian who takes Simeon, filled as he is with longing for the hereafter, as a role model.

Bach’s music hardly requires any explanation. With incomparable artistry and beauty it portrays the inner development of the text. As Craig Smith writes: “The first aria for is a poignant and gravely beautiful movement that treats the end of Simeon's long life with a mixture of melancholy and resignation. The second aria with strings is a lullaby both for the death of Simeon but for the sleeping Christ Child. The whole cantata treats the idea of the departure of Simeon and the birth of Jesus as part of the same Godly plan. The final aria is a joyous affair but in the minor mode to preserve the seriousness of the text.”

©Ryan Turner