Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

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Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 157

Bach Cantata BWV 157, Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn, composed in 1727,  began life as a funeral work, but was also associated with the Festival of the Purification. Although very small in scale, the work is of extraordinary density and seriousness. It opens with a complex duet for tenor and bass with obbligato flute, oboe, and viola. While the elegant texture reminds one of gallant works of Telemann, the notes are pure Bach. The tenor aria with oboe d'amore is perhaps the single most difficult tenor aria in the whole repertoire, coupled with a most demanding oboe d’amore part. The wild and extremely ornate melismas are an evocative illustration of the journey that we must make with Jesus. The tenor recitative separates the two most substantial movements and holds the central position in the work. Accompanied by only the winds and continuo, the minor modes of the first two movements now give way to major which predominates for the remainder of the cantata. The text is pivotal in that it moves from mention of worldly suffering and the falsity of this world to the happy union with Jesus.  Immediately following this second image the winds offer one of the motives from the ritornello of the duet, a musical moment of reassurance echoed. One wonders if Bach would have expected his congregation to notice.

The bass aria with solo violin and flute is on the surface more jolly, but has interesting diversions of recitative style writing. The text of the aria affirms of the intentions of the opening duet, while the recitative yearns for ‘sweet death,’ in the journey to eternal salvation. Perhaps Bach saw these as the same process, and probably relished the dramatic potential of musically counterpointing both ideas, the positively ebullient and the peacefully accepting, within the one musical framework. It is one of the most formally innovative arias in the whole canon. A sturdy harmonization of the chorale, "Meinem Jesum lass ich nicht,” underpinned by a muscular, marching bass line reinforces the themes of the cantata.

© Craig Smith, with edits and additions by Ryan Turner



Bach Cantata BWV 157 was also associated with the Festival of the Purification. It also began life as a funeral work. Although very small in scale - it calls for only six instruments - the work is of extraordinary density and seriousness. It opens with a complex duet for tenor and bass with obbligato flute, oboe, and violin. While the elegant texture reminds one of gallant works like the "Paris" Quartets of Telemann, the notes are pure Bach. The tenor aria with oboe d'amore is perhaps the single most difficult tenor aria in the whole repertoire. The oboe part, too is one of the most demanding. The wild and extremely ornate melismas are an evocative illustration of the journey which we must make with Jesus. The bass aria is on the surface more jolly, but has interesting diversions of recitative style writing. It is one of the most formally innovative arias in the whole canon. A beautiful harmonization of the chorale "Meinem Jesum lass ich nicht" ends the cantata.

©Craig Smith