Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...
PDme

 

 

Motet Notes

BWV 229

The words for today's motet Komm, Jesu, Komm, BWV 229, are taken from an eleven verse sacred song by Johann Shelle, former Thomascantor, with text by Paul Thymich. A striking biblical reference ends the first stanza, John 14:6 'I am the way, the truth and the life' - affirming Jesus as the gateway to God. By far, the largest portion of the motet is devoted to these two lines of text. The listener is cradled by a seemingly endless string of gorgeous suspensions underpinned by lilting eighth notes in six-eight time. The effect is hypnotic, all the more surprising given the brevity with which the earlier text is dispatched – one doesn't want it to end. The motet opens with a pleading, almost stuttering, 'Come, come, come', gaining in confidence as the two choirs trade the phrases. 'Der saure Weg' [the sour path] is musically depicted by a half step followed by a plummeting diminished seventh - introduced contrapuntally beginning with the basses of the second choir. The second stanza is set simply as a chorale. Even so, there is some beautiful text painting: the sustained chord on 'bleibt'  [remains] and the two-bar melisma on 'Weg' [path] - Bach's way, perhaps, of reminding us of the thematic importance of these last two lines of text. Craig Smith felt that this was “a melancholy, rather than a sad work.” A few of the motets have inward-looking moments, but taken as a whole, Komm, Jesu, Komm, is surely the most personal. 

© Michael Beattie


Some of the motets, like Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229, are more obviously funereal - at least by modern standards. The words are taken from an eleven-verse sacred song by Johann Shelle, former Thomaskantor, with text by Paul Thymich. A striking biblical reference ends the first stanza, John 14:6  – 'I am the way, the truth and the life' – affirming Jesus as the gateway to God. By far, the largest portion of the motet is devoted to these two lines of text: The listener is cradled in a seemingly endless string of gorgeous suspensions underpinned by lilting eighth notes in six-eight time. The effect is hypnotic, all the more surprising given the brevity with which the earlier text is dispatched – one doesn't want it to end. The motet opens with a pleading, almost stuttering, 'Come, come, come', gaining in confidence as the two choirs trade the phrases. 'Der saure Weg' [the sour path] is musically depicted by a half step followed by a plummeting diminished seventh - introduced contrapuntally beginning with the basses of the second choir. The second stanza is set in simple chorale style. Even so, there is some beautiful text painting: the sustained chord on 'bleibt' [remains] and the two-bar melisma on 'Weg' [path] - Bach's way, perhaps, of reminding us of the thematic importance of these last two lines of text. Craig Smith felt that this was “a melancholy, rather than a sad work.” While the motets have their inward-looking moments, taken as a whole, Komm, Jesu, komm is surely the most personal. 

© Michael Beattie

From Program Notes April 25, 2009