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Cantata BWV 125
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of February 8, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (February 8, 2015):
Cantata BWV 125: 'Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin': Intro.

Into the traditional six-movement symmetrical chorale cantata form of BWV 125, “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” (With peace and joy I go from here), Bach creates a most captivating, twenty-minute plus work opening with two superior movements, a fantasia chorus and alto aria using dance forms, respectively, of a pastorale and a sarabande for this 1725 Purification work. It is Bach’s hybrid setting of Luther’s versification of the Nunc dimmittis, Simeon’s canticle of prophecy of the Christ. Originally called the Feast of the Purification of Mary, the Gospel text Luke 2:22-32, deals with the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple, and Simeon’s response, (2:29-32).

Following the opening chorus and alto aria set to an original text by the unknown librettist, Bach provides a bass accompanied recitative that blends original poetry with the troped second stanza, a tenor-bass da-capo duet and an alto recitative secco based on paraphrase of the third stanza and both accompanied by strings, and an affirmative closing chorale on the fourth and final Luther verse.1 Particularly striking is the use of flute and oboe d’amore with strings which in the opening is musically reminiscent of the opening chorus of the St. Matthew Passion, Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen (Come, ye daughters [of Zion], share my mourning). It and the alto aria, reminiscent of alto Passion ariosi, probably was conceived at about the same time, the beginning of Lent 1725, when Bach was deciding to repeat his St. John Passion, unable to complete a second Passion, and ceasing composition of chorale cantatas for the Easter Season.

The significance of Luther’s setting blended with the hybrid cantata text is that together they provide both a realization of the fundamental Lutheran principle of justification by faith through grace alone, as pointed out below by scholar Alfred Dürr, and exemplary music of grief as described below by conductor John Eliot Gardiner.

Feast of Purification/Presentation

The Feast of the Purification/Presentation is described in the BCW as follows: “The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around 2 February. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., 'Meeting' in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of Purification of Mary [Feast of the Purificatuion of the Virgin, Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Prification of St Mary the Virgin]], and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline [the last of the canonical day-hours]) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast” (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/Maria-Reinigung.htm).

Readings for the Feast of the Purification are Epistle: Malachi 3:1-4 (The Lord shall suddenly come to his temple); Gospel: Luke 2:22-32 (Simeon prophesies of Christ); Complete text is the Martin Luther German translation (1545), with the English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611; for complete texts, see BCW Readings, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Purification.htm. Notice the contrast of the Malachi passage with the same text in the opening bass recitative of Handel’s “Messiah.”

The first performance of Cantata 125 was on Friday, February 2, 1725, between the Septuagesima Sunday performance (January 28) of Cantata 92, and the Sexagesima Sunday performance (February 4) of Cantata 126, both at the early main service at the Thomas Church, Pastor Christian Weise preaching the sermon. It can be assumed that the Friday Purification service with Cantata 125 was held at the main service in the Nikolaus Church, Superintendent Salomon Deyling presenting the sermon. The second performance of Cantata 125 is dated about 1735-1740

Cantata 125 Text is based on Martin Luther’s German translation of Simeon’s Canticle (Luke 2:29-32), Nunc dmimttis, “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin”, Luther (Mvts. 1, 3, 6 unaltered), and anonymous librettist (Mvts. 3, 4, 5 paraphrased; Mvt. 2 original). German text and Francis Browne English translation are located at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV125-Eng3.htm, and Luther (1483-1546) BCW Short Biography at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Luther.htm.

Chorale “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin”

"Mit Fried und Freud" is Martin Luther's paraphrase of the <Nunc dimittis> set to the presumed Luther melody (Zahn 3986, Dorian church mode) with collaborator Johann Walter, Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (Wittenberg, 1524). It is found in <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of 1682 (NLGB 56, Purification)2 as a four-verse alliterative prayer of thanksgiving and reconciliation with death. Various hymnbooks in Bach's time used the chorale for Purification, Epiphany time, and less often for the 16th Sunday after Trinity (Peter Williams, <Organ Music of JSB> 2nd. Ed., 2003: 268f). It currently is found as “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart, Hymn No. 440, under the category “End Time” (Eschatology), three verse translation on Luther’s versification text with melody (EKG 310) in the current hymnbook of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.3 The Luther text and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale011-Eng3.htm. The melody with Bach's other uses, as well as the Use of the Chorale Melody by other composers, is found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Mit-Fried-und-Freud.htm

Chorale Cantata BWV 125, "Mit Fried und Freud ich farh dahin," Purification (February 2, 1725), begins with a polyphonic chorale fantasia (Stanza 1) with solo horn playing the canto in e minor Dorian; Mvt. 3, chorale melody trope in bass recitative, a-b minor (Stanza 3 paraphrase by unknown writer); and Mvt. 6, closing plain chorale, Stanza 4, "Es ist das Heil und selig Licht" (He is salvation and blessed light), in e minor Dorian. It was the fourth to the last of 43 almost weekly chorale cantatas Bach composed for his second Leipzig church-year cycle, beginning with Cantata BWV 20, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" (O Eternity, thou word of thunder), for the Sunday after Trinity, June 11, 1724

For Cantata BWV 125, Bach's still-unknown librettist arranged a special hybrid setting of Luther's four-verse hymn, "Mit Fried und Freud," into Bach's two-part, six-movement form: Movement 1, opening chorale fantasia chorus setting of Stanza 1; Mvt. 2, original text amplifying themes in Stanza 2, for alto aria; Mvt. 3, bass recitative with trope of chorale Stanza 2; Mvt. 4, duet aria paraphrase of Stanza 3; Mvt. 5, alto recitative paraphrase of Stanza 3; and Mvt. 6, plain chorale setting of Stanza 4.

It is possible that Bach utilized four different librettists for the final four chorale cantatas composed for Cycle 2, with their texts published in a typical church libretto (text-book). According to the Harald Streck 1971 dissertation, <Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten JSB> (ref. Arthur Hirsch, "JSB's Cantatas in Chronological Order," BACH, 1980: 18-27), the cantatas, their 1725 dates and librettists are: Purification (February 2), BWV 125, 3rd cantata group librettist; Sexagesima (February 4), BWV 126, no librettist identity; Estomihi (Feb11), Cantata 127, 4th group librettist); and March 25 (Annunciation), BWV 1, 1st group librettist.

Bach's use of Luther's paraphrase of Simeon's Canticle, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I travel there), has an important early history in Bach's compositions at Mühlhausen, Weimar and Leipzig. It was the centerpiece of his Cantata BWV 83 and 125 for Purification (Presentation, "Darstellung" in German), as well as an expression in Cantatas BWV 106 (1707 funeral) and 95 (Trinity +16 1723) dealing with death. The melody is found in plain chorale, BWV 382 (?1730) as well as the Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude setting (1713-15) No. 19 for Purification. In later Purification presentations, Bach turned to and utilized other hymn settings of the <Nunc dimittis> as well as other hymns related to death.

Bach's Purification Cantatas

The record of Bach's musical presentations for the Feast of Purification shows several characteristics: some 14 presentations of nine cantatas in Leipzig (1724-48); some seven presentations of two cantatas or two-part cantatas; four diverse original works composed and presented in Leipzig; possibly four works of three other composers (J. L. Bach, G. H. Stölzel, G. P. Telemann) presented in Leipzig; at least three cantatas that did double duty (BWV 158, 157 and 161); and three cantatas (BWV 161, 95, and 27) that have direct connections with the 16th Sunday after Trinity. The Purification cantatas are: BWV 82 Ich habe genug (Leipzig, 1727); BWV 83 Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bande (Leipzig, 1724); BWV 125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (Leipzig, 1725); BWV 157 Ich lasse du nicht, du segnest mich denn (Leipzig, 1727); BWV 158 Der Friede sei mit dir (Leipzig, 1735?); BWV 161 Komm, du süße Todesstunde (Weimar, 1715); BWV 200 Bekennen will ich seinen Namen [movement of Stölzel]; BWV Anh 157 Ich habe Lust zu scheiden (Hamburg, 1724) [by Georg Philipp Telemann]

Word Painting, Simeon’s Faith, “Licht”

Bach’s Cantata 125 use of word painting, the theme of Simeon’s faith, and the key word “Licht” (light) are explored in Peter Smaill’s overview (March 3, 2007), BCML Discussion Part 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125-D2.htm. <<Bach deploys to the greatest degree his word-painting skills; the expression "sanft und stille" and "Der Tod mein schlaf worden" in BWV 125/1 are particularly sensitively extended. In BWV 125/2, the prolonged use of appogiatura and chromaticism across a throbbing bass, and key changes, creates a meditative effect. Even the Chorale BWV 125/6, which is skipped over by the commentators, has a magical impact (it is I think in the Dorian) mode); Bach creates a shift to E major by a tierce at 'Licht' in the first line, as well as the final joy-word "Wonne."

In one other setting of the chorale [BWV 382, possibly BWV 158a/4] the final bass note is a low D, here in BWV 125/6 a low E. For some reason Riemenschneider thinks the low D is a mistake, although he acknowledges relative to "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (BWV 91) Bach actually deploys a low C (!) in the vocal score. In all these examples, including BWV, we are well below the stave: in BWV 91, emphasising the ancient "Kyrie eleison", in the settings of the Nunc Dimittis, the venerable canticle.

The faith of the aged Simeon is the basis for a full-blooded Lutheran declaration of salvation through belief. The librettist conflates the two modes of Christ's salvific power, the "stuhl der genaden", the mercy stool on which (OT) the blood of the sacrificial lamb was smeared is conjoined to the "Siegezeichen," the victory sign (an image also from BWV 78). Thus these contrasting ideas, atoning sacrifice versus "Christus Victor," which divide the SJP and the SMP theologically, are combined in the key doctrinal passage, which is the little-noticed BWV 125/5.

The key word, however, is "Licht "; this Marian feast, otherwise Purification or Candlemas, is sometimes referred to as "Lichtmess." It is the focus of BWV 125/4 and BWV 125/6 following from its prominence in the "Nunc Dimittis". As Duerr notes, the "Nunc Dimittis" forms part of the service of Compline throughout the year, which is normally associated with the failing of the natural light and the coming of night and sleep.

The final poignancy lies in the fact that the congregation would well know that the conrector emeritus of St Thomas, and possible author of the text, Andreas Stuebel, had died on January 27 1725. His funeral would likely only just have taken place and thus the first performance of this consoling work must have had an especially powerful effect on the worshippers in Leipzig on that second day of February.

Dürr Theology, Gardiner Music Commentaries

The third movement “combines a reference to the ‘Light that lights the Gentiles’ from the canticle with an illusion to Mark 16:16: ‘He who believes and is baptized shall be saved,’ says Alfred Dürr in the Cantatas of JSB,4 “And the fifth movement establishes a link with Romans 3:25 (‘Christ, for whom God has set fourth a Throne of Grace’) referring to God’s act of Grace, still more clearly than Luther’s hymn, then, the cantata text embodies the fundamental elements of the Reformation creed: justification by faith (no. 4) through the action of grave alone (no. 5).” Dürr calls Cantata 125 “this remarkable work, which shows the Thomascantor at the height of his powers (Ibid.: 659f) with the “splendid, stirring opening chorus” and “no less beautiful the alto aria.”

John Eliot Gardiner in his recent Bach music biography, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven,5 describes Cantata 125 as “a more public version of the consoling prospect of death than in Ich habe genug [Cantata 82], yet in its way, just as intimate and evocative, as the music of the first chorus slides into a quiet sepulchral register at the words sanft und stille (‘calm and quiet’) and again with amazing pathos at the [closing] words der Tod ist mein schlaf worden (‘death has become my sleep’). Another “sepulchral tone” is found in the alto aria, says Gardiner at the librettist’s original words “‘Even with weakened eyes, I shall look to thee, my faithful saviour, though my body frame falls apart’ – a poignant anticipation of Bach’s own lot.” “this plaintive and grief-stricken aria, with its persistent heavily dotted French sarabande rhythms woven into the three-voice (sometimes four-voice) texture [flute, oboe d’amore, continuo, and alto] with richly ornamented, sighing appoggiaturas.” “The core of this aria’s affecting expression of private grief is sustained even when the text describes solace (‘even though my body breaks, my heart and hope shall not fail’).”

Purification Cantatas & Cantata 125

A lack of choruses in Bach’s cantatas for the Feast of Purification and a “balanced emotional palette” in Cantata 125 are discussed in Julian Mincham’s introductory Commentary, “Chapter 38 BWV 125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin,” http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-38-bwv-125.htm. 6

<<This is one of five surviving cantatas for the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Boyd (p 296) lists the others as Cs 158, 83, 82 and 157 and the serious student may wish to compare and contrast them all. Such a study is outside the scope of these volumes but brief contextual comments may be illuminating (see vol 3, chapter 36).

One obvious point is the lack of choruses in all except C 125. C 82 (1727) does not even boast the usual simple chorale at the end and is one of that relatively rare group of cantatas for a single voice, in this case the bass. Interestingly, C 157 from the same year also emphasizes the use of the deeper voices, tenor and bass.

Despite the splendid alto aria in C 125, it seems, for some reason, that the lower voices of tenor and bass were used much more in the cantatas for the Purification than the higher ones. Whether this is coincidental or if there is some underlying symbolic reason is not known. Might it have been thought inappropriate to have used the soprano voice, albeit sung by a boy but most suggestive oa woman, in these works?

Whatever the background, this cantata delivers a balanced emotional palette, something which we may expect from Bach, although not in every work. C 122 for example, is a more emotionally contained composition (chapter 31). But in C 125, whilst we discover sadness, poignancy and even fear, by contrast it would be difficult to find a more extrovertly ebullient movement than the tenor and bass duet. Again Bach seizes the opportunity to use the final aria to paint a contrasting picture from that which precedes it.>>

Cantata 125 Alto Aria

The Cantata 125 alto aria (Mvt. 2), “Ich will auch mit gebrochnen Augen / Nach dir, mein treuer Heiland, sehn” (Even with emfeebled eyes I shall / Look towards you, my faithful saviour), is exceptional music and three sources describing the aria are cited in Aryeh Oron’s Bachground (January 23, 2000) to the initial Part 1 BCML Discussion, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125-D.htm. The sources are W. Gillies Whittaker’s book,7

<<Ludwig Finscher (linear notes to Teldec Cycle) and Simon Crouch (of the BCW group) Cantata pages. Oron adds a “Personal Viwpoint.” <<Whittaker wrote: "The Aria is one of the most extraordinary numbers in the whole range of Bach’s writings, all the more astonishing as his treatment of the text added by the unknown librettist to Luther’s paraphrase of the new NUNC DIMITTIS introduces an emotional element scarcely compatible with the peaceful and joyful, albeit solemn, death-bed hymn, and is unlike anything else found in the cantatas for the Purification of the B.V.M., of which this is undoubtedly the latest, c. 1740. During the whole number, over 140 bars of slow tempo, the continuo ceases once only from its repeated quavers, TUTTU LIGATO, on the second appearance of the word ‘Sterben’, where flute and voice are left unsupported for the moment and an awesome rest follows. Bach’s use of long leaning tones, producing dissonances with the foundational harmony, is one of the commonest and most expressive of his harmonic devices. Here he carries it to a degree unexampled elsewhere. The voice has many appogiaturas, but they are few as compared with the obbligato lines, which are crowded to an astonishing extent with" grace notes.

Finscher wrote: "The ensuing Alto Aria combines flute, oboe d’amore and voice, over the continuo to be played ‘TUTTU LIGATO’ in a soaring, almost sentimental trio movement of particular tonal beauty, marked by the constant use of appogiaturas."

Crouch wrote: "The very long slow Alto Aria that follows this impressive opening is itself equally remarkable. One might think that boredom would set in at around the five minute mark but the Alto soloist is beautifully accompanied by a flute and an oboe d'amore who together maintain the interest and attention throughout with some lovely harmonies and some really scrunchy discords. Excellent."

[Oron] Personal viewpoint: This movement does not include strings, but they are not missed. The contrary is true. Bach achieves here a rare balance between the flute, the oboe and the voice and all of them have the same weight. I believe that most conductors will not resist the temptation to push the Alto ahead and in that way they might lose the delicate balance with the instruments and miss a major part of the solemn beauty of this cantata. The economy of means reminds me a tendency in the Jazz world to play with less and less instruments. With the right soloists, equipped with good technique, sharp ear, ability to listen to the other players, readiness to play sometimes the lead, sometimes the accompaniment and sometimes in tandem with another player, they achieve in some cases much more convincing results than with many more instruments. Another tool, which was very common in the early days of Jazz, was the ‘break’. This is the moment where the rhythm section suddenly stops playing and one instrument or two are left ‘in the air’ and they have to carry on the flow of the music ahead without support. This ‘tool’ is the equivalent to the moment described above by Whittaker.”

Cantata 125 Movements, Scoring, Text, Key, Meter are:8

1. Chorus in two parts (Stanza 1 unaltered) with ritornelli, dal segno opening instrumental sinfonia [SATB; Corno col Soprano, Flauto traverso, Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” (With peace and joy I go from here); B. “Sanft und stille; / Wie Gott mir verheißen hat” (calm and quiet; / as God has promised me); e minor; 12/8 pastorale style.
2. Aria (original material) free da-capo, dal segno opening instrumental sinfonia [Alto; Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Continuo]: “Ich will auch mit gebrochnen Augen / Nach dir, mein treuer Heiland, sehn.” (Even with emfeebled eyes I shall / Look towards you, my faithful saviour); B. “Wenngleich des Leibes Bau zerbricht, / Doch fällt mein Herz und Hoffen nicht”; b minor, ¾ sarabande style.
3. Recitative accompanied and troped Chorale [italics] (Stanza 2 paraphrased, full stanza 2 unaltered) [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]; “O Wunder, dass ein Herz / Vor der dem Fleisch verhassten Gruft und gar des Todes Schmerz / Sich nicht entsetzet!” (O wonder, that a heart / facing the grave hated by the flesh and even the pain of death / is not terrified!); “Das macht Christus, wahr' Gottes Sohn, / Der treue Heiland,” (Christ brings this about, the true son of God, / the faithful saviour); “Der auf dem Sterbebette schon / Mit Himmelssüßigkeit den Geist ergötzet” (who already o the deathbed / delights the spirit with heaven's sweetness); “Den du mich, Herr, hast sehen lahn” (whom you, Lord have let me see); “Da in erfüllter Zeit ein Glaubensarm das Heil des Herrn umfinge” (when in the fullness of time an arm of faith embraced the salvation of the Lord); / “Und machst bekannt” (and you made it known); “Von dem erhabnen Gott, dem Schöpfer aller Dinge” (from the exalted God, the Creator of all things); “Dass er sei das Leben und Heil” (that he is our life and salvation); “Der Menschen Trost und Teil, / Ihr Retter vom Verderben” (the consolation and portion of mankind, / their deliverer from destruction); “Im Tod und auch im Sterben.” (in death and also in dying.); a minor to b minor; 4/4.
4. Aria (Duetto) da-capo (Stanza 3 paraphrased0, mostly canonical [Tenor, Bass; Violino I/II, Continuo]: A. “Ein unbegreiflich Licht erfüllt den ganzen Kreis der Erden.” (An incomprehensible light fills the entire circle of the earth); B. “Es schallet kräftig und fort / Ein höchst erwünscht Verheißungswort” (There resounds powerfully and ceaselessly / a word of promise most highly desired); G major’ 4/4/.
5. Recitative secco (Stanza 3 paraphrased [Alto, Continuo]: “O unerschöpfter Schatz der Güte, / So sich uns Menschen aufgetan: es wird der Welt” (O uncreated treasury of goodness / opened for humanity: the world); e mnor; 4/4.
6. Chorale Plain (Stanza 4 unaltered) [SATB; Corno e Flauto traverso in octava e Oboe e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Er ist das Heil und selig Licht / Für die Heiden” (He is the salvation and blessed light / for the Gentiles); e minor’ 4/4/.

Feast, Luther’s Hymn, Cantata 125 Movements

The Feast of the Presentation, Luther’s hymn, and various Cantata 125 movements are described in detail in Klaus Hofmann’s 2006 liner noted to the Masaaki Suzuki liner notes to the BIS recordings of the complete Bach sacred cantatas.9 <<The cantata “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” was written for the main Leipzig church service for Candlemas, the feast commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary, in 1725. This feast day, also called ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’, is celebrated each year on 2nd February. At its centre is the gospel according to St. Luke 2, 22-32, with the story of the presentation of the child Jesus by his parents in the temple at Jerusalem, according to Jewish tradition, and the related episode of his encounter with the venerable Simeon. According to Luke, Simeon was filled with the Holy Ghost, who had foretold to him that ‘he should not see death, before he had seen the Lor’s Christ’. In the temple he now recognizes Jesus as the Christ of the prophecy, takes him in his arms and utters Simeon’s song of praise, words that are to this day among the essential Christian liturgical texts: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.’

The basis of Bach’s cantata is a hymn by Martin Luther that was written in 1524 and remains popular to this day, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, a free adaptation of the Latin version of the hymn. On this occasion Bach’s librettist also used the second strophe verbatim, but the lines are divided up and skillfully linked by free poetic recitative. Because Luther’s hymn is only four verses long, Bach’s writer has liberally expanded the material.

The opening chorus is one of the most beautiful in the entire chorale cantata year. The hymn strophe is embedded in a thematically independent orchestral setting. The first motif of this, including a rising interval of a fifth, alludes to the beginning of the hymn melody; with its triplet motion it pervades the entire movement. Two wind instruments, transverse flute and oboe, add a touch of colour. The hymn melody is presented in long note values by the soprano, and its Dorian modality (with a raised submediant) lends this E minor movement a slightly archaic flavour. The lower choral parts take up the orchestra’s triplet motion and form a sometimes dense, imitative texture. Especially impressive moments are the beginnings of the choral sections ‘sanft und stille’ (‘calm and quiet’) and ‘der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden’ (‘death has become my sleep’).

The alto aria, in which the librettist allows the believer’s gaze to fall upon his own death, is filled with emotions of grief and lamentation. A significant contribution is made by the rhythmically stereotyped figures from the two woodwind instruments, later taken up by the voice. The unwieldy figures in dotted rhythm, constantly interrupted by pauses, are evidently a manifestation of the typically baroque poetic image of the broken eyes that look to the Saviour.

In the bass recitative that comes next, Bach exactly follows the alternation of freely composed verse and original lines of hymn text. He treats the newly written lines in the manner of the rhythmically flexible diction of recitative, whilst the hymn lines appear in arioso form, as a sometimes freely decorated chorale melody above the steady tread of the basso continuo. Despite the alternation of these very different types of setting, the movement is unified by a stereotyped string motif that is also found elsewhere in Bach’s output and always indicates an underlying mood of happiness.

The male-voice duet also strikes a joyous one. The playful character is shown by the extended, circling coloratura on the word ‘Kreis’ (‘circle’ or ‘orb’), and the baroque sound effect of statement and response unfolds to the words ‘Es schallet kräftig fort und fort’ (‘Powerfully there rings out time after time’).

After the concise theological analysis of the alto recitative, a beautifully simple setting of the last strophe of Luther’s hymn ends the cantata. © Klaus Hofmann 2006

Bach's Purification Cantata Calendar

+1716 (Epiphany 4, Weimar), BWV 158(a), "Welt ade! Ich bin dein müde" (World, farewell, I am weary of thee), possibly early version of Cantata BWV 158, "Der Friede sei mit dir" (Peace be with you), composed for Easter Tuesday (Third Day of Easter Feast), probably April 3, 1725 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV158.htm); Thomas Braatz' BCW Provenance discusses the connections, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV158-Ref.htm ;
*1724, BWV 83, "Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bande" (Joyful time in new stirring); repeated 1727; borrowed material;
*1725, BWV 125, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I journey therein); repeated 1736-39 (chorale cantata);
+1726 (Eph. 4), JLB-9 (two parts), "Mache dich auf, werde licht" (Change yourself, become light) (Johann Ludwig Bach);
*1727, BWV 82 Ich habe genug (I have enough); repeated 1730-31, 1735 (82a in e minor), c1746-47 c1747-1748 (82b in c minor);
+1727, (BWV 83 REPEAT);
*?1728 or later, BWV 157 Ich lasse du nicht, du segnest mich denn (I leave Thee not, Thou bless me then);
+1729, BWV deest/P-16, "Herr, nun lässest du deiner Diener" (Lord, let they servant go), Picander cycle, text only; No. 6, plain chorale, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (S.1)
+1730-31, (BWV 82 REPEAT);
+1735, BWV 161 Komm, du süße Todesstunde (Come thou, sweetest death-hour) (Weimar, 9/27/16, Trinity 16);
+1735, (BWV 82(a) REPEAT);
+1736, "Ich habe dich zum Lichte der Heiden gemacht" (I have made for you the light of the heathens) music not extant; Stözel, 1735-36 Seiten Jahrgang (Strings annual cycle, two-part cantatas)
+1736-39, BWV 125 REPEAT)
+?1737, no title extant, Stözel, 1736-37 Book of Names annual cycle, two-part cantatas
+c1746-47, (BWV 82 REPEAT)
+c1747-1748 (BWV 82b REPEAT)
*1724-35, BWV Anh 157, "Ich habe Lust zu scheiden" (I have delight in parting) (Hamburg, 1724) [by Georg Philipp Telemann], TVWV 1:833 (Purification) or TVWV 1:834 (Trinity 16); ?both after Neumeister text; Bach autograph harpsichord part exists.
*BWV 200 "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen" (1742); "Cantata BWV 200 is actually an arrangement by J.S. Bach of the aria "Dein Kreuz, o Bräutgam meiner Seelen" from the Passion-oratorio "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld" by G.H. Stölzel (Peter Wollny in Bach-Jahrbuch 2008)" [BCW Stölzel short biography], performed by Bach on Good Friday, April 23, 1734, in the Thomas Church.

(The source for the above information is found at BCW, “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas Motets & Chorales for Feast of Purification of Mary,” http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Purification.htm. Besides materials on Cantata 125, Luther’s chorale, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin," and the Purification performance calendar, the article provides motet information as well as the three special Marian Feasts (Purification, Annunciation, and Visitation), the use of the Nunc Dimittis (the traditional 'Gospel Canticle' of Night Prayer or Compline, other German chorale versions of the Nunc Dimittis, four works Bach presented for Purification contain relevant omnes tempore chorales, and other hymnbook music appropriate for Purification.)

FOOTNOTES:

1 Cantata 125 Details and Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125.htm
2 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius

(Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
3 Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Aubsburg Fortress Press: Minneapolis MN, 2007: No. 440).
4 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 659.
5 Gardiner, Bach (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013: 464f
6 Mincham, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/index.htm.
7 Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958” II: 252).
8 Scoring, Soloists: Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo, horn (in the continuo of the opening chorus). Score Vocal & Piano [1.85 MB]. http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV125-V&P.pdf, Score BGA [2.51 MB], httd p://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV125-BGA.pdf. References: BGA XXVI (Cantatas 120-129, Alfred Dörffel, 1878), NBA KB I/28.1 (Cantatas for Purification, Matthias Wendt 1988), Bach Compendium BC A 168, Zwang: K 111. Provenance.
9 Hofmann lnotes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C32c[BIS-SACD1501].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec2.htm#C32.

William Hoffman wrote (February 8, 2015):
Cantata BWV 125: 'Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin': Intro.

See: Cantata BWV 125: Provenance

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 10, 2015):
Cantata BWV 125 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 125 "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" for the Feast of Purification of Mary on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo & horn (in the continuo of the opening chorus). See:
Complete Recordings (15): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (4): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I have also added to the movement pages of this cantata an option to move back and forth between the movements and to each movement page the text and relevant portion of the BGA score. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/INS/BWV125-01.htm

I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive and detailed discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 125 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW William Hoffman's detailed introduction to this week's discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV125-D5.htm

Chaeles Francis wrote (February 14, 2015):
The following audio-video settings of ‘Mit Fried und Freud’ caught my attention:

BUXTEHUDE:
BuxWV76a: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsSPzthSffM
BuxWV 76: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6puhBuM_IWo

BACH:
BWV 616: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeRZcpmpieM

 

Cantata BWV 125: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:32