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Cantata BWV 157
Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of February 5, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (February 10, 2017):
Early in his third cycle in 1726 as Lent season approached, Sebastian Bach began the composition of his double-ensemble St. Matthew Passion with poet Picander. Serendipitously, the Leipzig cantor and music director was commissioned to provide a memorial cantata for a deceased member of the Saxon nobility. They produced intimate tenor-bass solo Cantata 157 “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!” (I am not letting you go, unless you bless me first!, Genesis 32:26), which premiered on Wednesday, 6 February, that Bach also was able to present as a musical sermon on the Feast of the Purification, 2 February. He also possibly was able to utilize music of mourning and consolation composed for a similar memorial service in Weimar which emphasized Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

The form of Cantata 157 is unusual although it has the earmarks of Bach’s intimate solo works. It is cast as a personal tenor-bass male dialogue with personal pietist sentiments expressed in traditional theology as acceptance of death in the peaceful and thoughtful manner of Simeon. Bach reinforced the sense of peaceful death with an intimate chamber ensemble of flute, oboe, and solo violin in the opening movement, followed by solo oboe in the tenor aria, two violins and viola in the tenor recitative, and flute with violin in the bass scena. Simeon was the devout and aged Jewish official at the Temple in Jerusalem who proclaims the canticle of praise, Nunc dimittis (Lord, let thy servant depart [die] in peace, Luke 2:29) following the ceremonial circumcision and naming of Jesus. This is the Gospel for the Feast of the Purification of Mary following the birth of her son.

The opening duet is a personal affirmation of God and the believer’s petition for a divine blessing. This desire to hold God’s son perpetually with an unwavering faith is expressed in the tenor aria (no. 2) in 3/8 dance style, “Ich halte meinen Jesum feste” (I hold my Jesus firmly). This is followed by the tenor recitative (no. 3 usually preceding the aria), “Mein lieber Jesu du . . . So bist du meine Freude” (My dear Jesus, you . . . you are then my delight) of personal rest and comfort in the face of anguish while the false world’s pleasures will pass away while holding steadfast to Jesus. The central, extended operatic-style scena in rondo form for bass assumes Simeon’s (and the believer’s) death, repeating the motto of holding firmly to Jesus in heaven with repeated references to God’s sacrificial Lamb with crowns at the wedding feast and the believer’s lying in the coffin in Jesus’ arms with his blessing. The cantata closes with the Christian Keymann’s 1658 pietist Passion chorale, “Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht” (I do not leave my Jesus).1

There is no original, source-critical evidence that Bach presented Cantata 157 for the Purification Feast, while the text, referring to Simeon’s Nunc dimittis (Lord, let thy servant depart in peace, Luke 2:29), makes it appropriate in the Gospel for this feast day. Picander’s 1727 published text was for a funeral, while the initial score copy of 1755/56 has no service designation and is assumed to be the funeral setting. Subsequently, the same copyist, Christian Friedrich Penzel in 1760 or 1767 made a separate set of parts labeled for the Purification Feast, and assumed to be a later performance of Cantata 157 for that church year event. Bach scholars assume that Bach reperformed Cantata 157 on that day in 1728 or later.

In the published Picander cycle, a new cantata text was designated for 2 February 1729, BWV P-16, "Herr, nun lässest du deiner Diener" (Lord, let they servant go). It closes (no. 6) with a plain chorale setting of "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin," Martin Luther’s adaptation of the Latin Nunc dimittis, that could be BWV 382, Dorian in a minor. Bach closed two other Purification Cantatas BWV 83 and 125, with plain chorale settings of Luther’s hymn.

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, Notice the contrast of the Malachi passage with the same text in the opening bass recitative of Handel’s “Messiah.” Introit motets for both Purification main and vesper services could include settings of the Nunc Dimittis, Ecce tu pulchra (Behold, you are beautiful, from the Song of Songs), and Senex puerum portabat (An ancient held up an Infant), antiphon to the Magnificat. These introit motets are discussed at Douglas Cowling’s BCW Motets & Chorales for Feast of Purification of Mary, The Marian feast vespers also include special music Bach composed, primarily his setting of the Latin Magnificat, BWV 243.

Memorial Service Second Cantata

For the February 6 solemn memorial service in nearby Pomßen, a commemoration print of the sermon, shows a second cantata performed after the sermon, says Alfred Dürr’s The Cantatas of J. S. Bach (Oxford University Press: New York, 2005: 766f). Bach also presented lost Cantata BWV Anh. 209, “Liebster Gott, vergisst du mich” (“Dearest God, will you forget me?), based on a 1711 text by the Darmstadt court poet Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717). It also may have been composed or planned originally in Weimar for the 7th Sunday after Trinity, 15 July 1714, and adapted through revision and parody for this special service.2 At the same time, Bach may have considered the Lehms text and instead composed Cantata 54, “Widerstehe doch der Sünde” (Stand firm against sin), also a Lehms text from the same annual cycle, designated for Occuli Sunday (Third Sunday in Lent) but, according to Bach scholars, the text also having references appropriate for the readings for the 7th Sunday after Trinity.

Chorale “Meinen Jesum”

The chorale “Meinen Jesum laß' ich nicht” (1658) is listed in Bach’s hymnbook, Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1682 as No. 346 under the omnes tempore category of “Death and Dying,” involving three original very long stanzas. The Christian Keymann (1607-1662) six-stanza text and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW (Keymann BCW Short Biography, The original text is set with the melody (Zahn 3449) of Andreas Hammerschmidt. Bach also used the hymn in Cantata 70, 154, and 157. In addition Bach set stanza 6 of the hymn to close the original 1727 version of the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244/29 (244b) and composed a four-part setting, BWV 380. The hymn first appeared in ‘Fest-, Buß- und Danklieder’ for 5 voices and 5 instruments (ad lib) and bc. This collection was dedicated to the Electress Magdalena Sibylla of Saxony and the printing was dated October 29, 1658, and published in Zittau where Keymann was the Rector. Detailed information on the melody is found at BCW,

Lehms Texts Influence, Early 1726

An examination of Bach’s performance calendar in early 1726 reveals circumstantial and collateral evidence that Bach could have been influenced by the Lehms text, with which Bach had begun his third cycle at C1725. After setting six cantatas to these Lehms texts through BWV 13, “Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen” (My sighs, my tears), an intimate solo work for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, 20 January, Bach found no Lehms 1711 text for the next Sunday, since there was no 3rd Sunday after Epiphany in 1712 and none was printed in the Lehms text. Bach turned to a Franck text and set Cantata BWV 72, “Alles nur nach Gottes Willen” (Everything according to God's will) for that Sunday, 27 January 1726. Then, Bach abruptly stopped composing new works and turned present the cantatas of Meiningen cousin Johann Ludwig for the Purification Feast and two rarely occurring 4th and 5th Sundays after Epiphany JLB 9, 1 and 2). Meanwhile, Sebastian continued with three Ludwig “Gesima” pre-Lenten cantatas (JLB 3-5), while he turned to composition of the February 6 memorial service music and then to the St. Matthew Passion. A year later, in early 1727, Bach had ceased regular composition of church year cantatas as he focused on the completion of the original version of the St. Matthew Passion, presented on Good Friday, 11 April. The exceptions were two cantatas to fill the 1726 gap in the third cycle for the Purification Feast (BWV 83) on Sunday, February 2, and Septuagesima Sunday (BWV 84), on February 9. Although conjectural, the source of Cantata 157 may have been Bach’s lost Cantata BWV deest [BC D-6], “Was ist, das wir Leben nennen? (What is this that we call life), performed on 2 April 1716 at the Weimar Court Chapel for Prince Johann Ernst, Bach’s beloved friend, music lost, text survives, probably by court poet Salomo Franck. The text shows 22 movements: three choruses, six recitatives, four chorales, seven arias, and two ariosi.

Cantata 157 Contextual Placing

The contextual placing of Cantata 157 and its intimate chamber quality are discussed in Julian Mincham’s Commentary introduction ( <<The contextual placing of this work creates some problems. It was originally performed as a funeral cantata in 1727 although even then quite possibly as a paraphrase from earlier sources (Dürr p 766-7). It was latterly revived for the celebration of the Purification, an unproblematic decision because of the concurrence of texts (ibid p767).

Its complex history means that comparisons with other cantatas written particularly for this day are not especially helpful, although readers may find some contextual comments in chapters 36 of this volume (C 82) and 38 of volume 2 (C 125). However, the scoring for just the tenor and bass distinguishes this cantata as one particularly suitable for this occasion [Purification] since, as noted in the essay on C 125, use of the lower voices appears to have been Bach’s general practice for the Purification.

C 157 is an intimate chamber work with no commanding chorus. It requires just the two solo voices with one each of oboe and flute joining strings and continuo. It is possible that the lightness of the scoring is due to a lack of resources when the work was initially conceived, although it is also the case that Bach displays a tendency to return to the chamber cantata format of his youth at this time, interspersed with larger designs. The very transparency of the three arias leads one to suppose that the adding of additional parts, with the consequent thickening of the textures, would not have been a productive enterprise even if Bach had considered it.>>

Cantata 157 Movements, Scoring, Texts, Key, Meter (Picander Text and Francis Browne English translation

1. Aria (Duet, canon) in three parts (AA’B) with ritornelli [Tenor, Bass; Flauto traverso, Oboe, Violino solo, Continuo]: A opening ritornello (mm. 1-8), text (mm. 9-16), “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!” I am not letting you go, unless you bless me first!”; A’ repeat text (mm. 25-31), B. repeat text (mm. 32-49; dal segno (mm. 2-8); b minor; 4/4.
2. Aria two-part with ritornelli [Tenor; Oboe d'amore, Continuo]: A. opening ritornello (mm. 1-32); text (mm. 33-75), “Ich halte meinen Jesum feste, / Ich laß ihn nun und ewig nicht” (I hold my Jesus firmly, /now and always I do not let him go.); B. ritornello (mm. 76-107), text (mm. 108-187), “Er ist allein mein Aufenthalt, / Drum faßt mein Glaube mit Gewalt / Sein segenreiches Angesicht; Denn dieser Trost ist doch der beste.” (He alone is where I abide, / and so my faith forcefully seizes on / his countenance rich in blessings. / For this is certainly the best comfort.); dal segno (opening ritornello); f-sharp minor; 3/8 dance-style.
3. Recitative accompagnato [Tenor; Violino I/II, Violetta, Continuo]: “Mein lieber Jesu du, / Wenn ich Verdruss und Kummer leide, / So bist du meine Freude, / In Unruh meine Ruh / Und in der Angst mein sanftes Bette; / Die falsche Welt ist nicht getreu, / Der Himmel muss veralten, / Die Lust der Welt vergeht wie Spreu; / Wenn ich dich nicht, mein Jesu, hätte, / An wen sollt ich mich sonsten halten? / Drum lass ich nimmermehr von dir, / Dein Segen bleibe denn bei mir.” (My dear Jesus, you, / when I suffer vexation and sorrow, / you are then my delight, / in unrest [you are] my rest, / and in anguish [you are] my soft bed; / The false world is not truthful, / the heavens must grow old, / the pleasures of the world pass away like chaff; / If I did not have you, my Jesus, / to whom else could I hold on? / Therefore I shall nevermore let you go, / Then your blessing stays with me.); A to D Major; 4/4.
4. Scena: Aria (three part), Recitativo e Arioso [Bass; Flauto traverso, Violino, Continuo] A. Aria, opening ritornello (mm 1-12), text (mm. 13-55), “Ja, ja, ich halte Jesum feste, / So geh ich auch zum Himmel ein” (Yes, yes, I hold on firmly to Jesus, / and so I also enter into heaven); text (mm 42-49) “Wo Gott und seines Lammes Gäste / In Kronen zu der Hochzeit sein” (where God and the guests of his lamb / with crowns are at the wedding feast.); text (mm. 54-62), “Da laß ich nicht, mein Heil, von dir, / Da bleibt dein Segen auch bei mir.” (There I do not let go, my saviour, of you / there, your blessing remains also with me.), repeat text (mm. 66-71); B. Recitative secco (mm. 74-78) “Ei, wie vergnügt / Ist mir mein Sterbekasten, Weil Jesus mir in Armen liegt! / So kann mein Geist recht freudig rasten!” (Ah, how delightful / is my coffin for me / since Jesus lies in my arms. / And so my soul can rest joyfully!); Arioso (repeat text trope, mm 78-81): “Ja, ja, ich halte Jesum feste, / So geb ich auch zum Himmel ein!” (Yes, yes, I hold on firmly to Jesus); and so I also enter heaven.); Adagio (mm. 83-86), “O schöner Ort! / Komm, sanfter Tod, und führ mich fort” (Oh beautiful place! / Come, gentle death, and take me away); Arioso (repeat text, mm. 86-89), “Wo Gott und seines Lammes Gäste / In Kronen zu der Hochzeit sein.” (where God and the guests of his lamb / with crowns are at the wedding feast); Recitative secco (mm. 89-93), “ Ich bin erfreut, / Das Elend dieser Zeit / Noch von mir heute abzulegen; / Denn Jesus wartet mein im Himmel mit dem Segen.” (I am delighted / the misery of this time / to put away from me today; / For Jesus waits for me in heaven with his blessing.); Arioso (mm. 94-102); “Da laß ich nicht, mein Heil, von dir, / Da bleibt dein Segen auch bei mir.” (There I do not let go, my saviour, of you, / there, your blessing remains also with me.); repeat text mm. 106-113); D Major; 4/4.
5. Chorale plain [SATB]\; Flauto traverso in octava e Oboe e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Violetta col Tenore, Continuo]: “Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht, / Geh ihm ewig an der Seiten; / Christus lässt mich für und für / Zu dem Lebensbächlein leiten. Selig, wer mit mir so spricht: / Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht.” (I do not leave my Jesus / I go along always at his side / Christ allows me for ever and ever /to be guided to the springs of life /Happy is whoever who says with me: / I do not leave my Jesus.); D Major; 4/4.

Cantata 157 1726 Memorial Service

The memorial service for which Cantata 157 was composed is described in detail, as well as the cantata, in Alfred Dürr’s original 1960 notes and is included in the liner notes to the recording of this cantata by Hellmann for Cantate label (BCW Recording details, << Christoph von Ponickau, Chamberlain and Privy Councillor, was in his 75th year when he died, in October 1726. He was buried a few days later in his family tomb at the church of Pomssen. He had deserved well of Saxony in many ways, and was an outstanding personality. He is not known to have any dealings with Bach direct; but among the poems of the latter’s librettist Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander) there is a long funeral ode on von Ponickau’s death, immediately followed by the text of the cantata ‘Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!’. It thus seems possible that Picander had a hand in commissioning the cantata from Bach. It was performed on 6 February 1727 at a solemn memorial service in the church of Pomssen.

Bach afterwards used the cantata for the Feast of Purification (February 2), which at that time was still celebrated by the evangelist Church. There was no difficulty about this; for the Gospel for that feast (Luke 2: 22-32) is concerned with the presentation of Christ in the Temple and the story of the aged Simeon, of whom it had been prophesied that he should not die until he had seen the Saviour. Simeon words [Nunc dimittis], ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen the salvation’ are still regarded as an allegory of Christian death, and a funeral ode on these lines could at any time understood and performed as a commentary on the Gospel for Purification. The libretto begins with a quotation from Genesis 32: 26: ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’ (Mvt. 1). These words were spoken by Jacob to the Angel with whom he wrestled; but in the cantata they are treated as if addressed to Jesus.

The second aria (Mvt. 2) and the following recitative (Mvt. 3) speak of holding fast to Jesus as a comfort in grief and tribulation. The next aria (Mvt. 4) brings in the idea of death (‘So shall I enter into heaven’); again the blessing is upon the man who will not let Jesus go. There is a recitative, which refers back to the text of the aria; Bach actually incorporated this in the aria, much as in Cantata BWV 169 and certain other works. The text ends with the last verse of the hymn ‘Jesus will I never leave’, by Christian Keymann (1658) (Mvt. 5). The first line originally read, ‘Jesum laß ich nicht von mir’; in the cantata it is the same as the last line: ‘Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht’. Unfortunately it is impossible to say whether Bach made the alteration deliberately or by accident.

In composing the music, Bach may have taken account of the resources available at the memorial service at Pomssen. The chief responsibilities fall to a tenor, a bass, and three solo instruments, with continuo. The choir sings only the plain final chorale, and the string orchestra is used only as accompaniment to the chorale and to the recitative (Mvt. 3). But it cannot be said to be a disadvantage that Bach, on this occasion, was not able to call on the more complete orchestra that he used for his weekly cantatas, and chose instead a flute, oboe, and solo violin – a type of combination that he had hardly used in his early cantatas (e.g. BWV 152 Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn). Attractive tone-colour and masterly composition are here most happily combined.

The introductory Duet employs the three solo instruments and both singers, with continuo. The words ’I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’ are not yet realistically, as is obvious from the use of two voices; furthermore, the idea of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel does not appear to have been in Bach’s mind. The music does not suggest a struggle, but rather the beseeching gestures of the petitioner, of Christendom at prayer.

In the [tenor] Aria, the idea of holding fast to Jesus is painted with Baroque clarity in long-held notes; the resolute grasp of faith in strong upward-striving demisemiquaver figures. The obbligato instrument is the oboe d’amore, whose deeper compass contrasts with that of the three high instruments in Mvt. 1, thus enlarging the range of colour.

The recitative [no. 3] is followed by an aria. Here the flute and violin are used, as against the oboe d’amore in Mvt. 2. The form particularly presents the complete text of the aria, in separate sections; the 2nd half is a much-shortened repetition, three times interrupted by recitatives, of which the first and the third are accompanied by continuo alone, but the 2nd by flute and violin as well. The resolute beginning of the theme, with its wide intervals, and Bach’s choice of a bass soloist, give an impression of joyful and absolute confidence. The rapid movement of the aria themes contrasts effectively with the peaceful recitatives. It is worth noting how Bach secured the coherence of this aria, with its numerous sections, by repeating a motive taken from the instrumental ritornello. The singer begins every aria-section with this motive, almost unaltered; it serves as a motto before the first vocal entry, and is repeated within the sections, so that it is sung 12 times in all – a symbol of ‘holding fast’ throughout the complicated structure of this movement.>>

Bach’s Occasional Sacred Cantatas

The importance of Bach’s occasional sacred cantatas for special services, is discussed in Bach scholarKlaus Hofmann 2012 Introduction liner notes on Cantata BWV 157 (from Suzuki Vol. 51).4 Introduction: <<The cantatas on this disc (BWV 195, 192, 157, 120a) bring us to a subsidiary field in Bach’s activities as a composer during his Leipzig years: the broad spectrum of occasional and commissioned works. In Bach’s time – far more than today – the special occasions in people’s public and private lives were celebrated with specially written poetry and music. Moreover, as all aspects of public and private life had a spiritual as well as a worldly dimension, such highlights were also marked by suitably elaborate church services. The organizer of such events had the task of commissioning the poet, composer and performers. For Bach, such commissions were a welcome supplement to his income as Cantor. In Leipzig, the regular occasions for which such works were required included the annual church service for the council elections; for each of these occasions, the city asked Bach to produce a festive cantata. In addition there were commissions for noble and bourgeois birthdays, marriages, funerals and other events, as well as a few projects for academic ceremonies connected with Leipzig University.

Bach approached such commissions with undiminished artistic care. His occasional pieces are in no way inferior in quality to the sacred music he wrote as part of his ‘day job’. From time to time, however, he made life easier for himself by reusing music [BWV 157?, 120a] that he had composed earlier, if necessary providing it with a new text and adapting it to its new purpose. His resolve in this respect may have been strengthened by the knowledge that the works in question had been planned for just a single performance – and, as some of the movements were highly effective, Bach may have regretted that they would not be heard again. There was, however, some possibility of reusing material for later events with similar musical demands and expectations [and similar affect].

Bach’s sacred occasional pieces are independent works and did not form part of his cantata cycles for the Sundays and feast days of the church . Probably owing to their associations with specific events, they have been affected more than the works belonging to the cantata years by the loss of original materials after Bach’s death. Their special status may also explain why many questions regarding these works remain unanswered – concerning for example their purpose and raison d’etre, whether they are parodies, and other contextual issues: the time and place of their composition and thus their position within Bach’s life and work. This applies to the four cantatas on this disc as well.>>

Cantata 157 Hofmann Commentary

<<“Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn” (I will not let thee go, except thou bless me, BWV157). This cantata has long posed problems for Bach scholars. The principal sources come from after Bach’s death: a score from c.1755 [P 1046 M] and a set of parts [St 386 M] from the 1760s, both in the hand of Christian Friedrich Penzel (1737–1801), one-time [Bach student and prefect] cantor at St Thomas’s Church and subsequently in Merseburg. The stated purpose was for Candlemas (2nd February). The two sources differ markedly, and represent two stages of a later arrangement of Bach’s original. The aim of the arrangement was evidently to find the work a regular place in the church year [and possibly part of the cantata estate division].

On the circuitous route via printed sources to the text of the work it has, however, been possible to determine the circumstances surrounding its origins. The cantata was commissioned as part of a memorial service to the Saxon chamberlain Johann Christoph von Ponickau (1652-1726), which took place in Pomßen near Leipzig on 6th February [Thursday] 1727. At that time the work also included a second part that had unfortunately been lost. The text of the first part, i.e. of the present cantata, is by Bach’s Leipzig ‘poet in residence’, Christian Friedrich Henrici, alias Picander (1700–1764). The second part consisted of a cantata that Bach had written in Weimar, probably in 1714, that started with the words ‘Liebster Gott, vergisst du mich’ (‘Dearest God, will you forget me?’) – based on a [1711] text by the Darmstadt court poet Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717) that had been slightly adapted to suit the new occasion.

A critical analysis of the style of the surviving music allows us to recognize and reverse the majority of the later revisions. The way back to Bach’s original ultimately leads us to a composition of a scale more reminiscent of chamber music, for four voices and an exquisite combination of solo instruments: transverse flute, oboe d’amore and violin or viola d’amore. The text and music speak for themselves. The starting point is the Bible quotation ‘Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn’ (‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’, Genesis 32: 26), which in its Old Testament context is spoken by Jacob wrestling with the angel, but is interpreted here as the Christian addressing Jesus. The idea of holding on faithfully to Jesus – and of confidence in eternal life (fourth movement) – dominate the work all the way to the final chorale.
>> © Klaus Hofmann 2012

Notes on Text

The biblical source of the Cantata 157 opening duet is explained in Dick Wursten’s 9 March 2002 commentary to the BCML Cantata 157 Discussion Part 1, <<My compliments for Picander, who again proves to be a craftsman and a very well-informed lay-theologian. The intriguing story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (or was it a river-daemon, or was it the god of Esau, his brother whom he has to face on the other side of the river, or is it his own anxiety (Angst) and feeling of guilt that have materialized in a Jung-ian way... the story is not explicit, so leaves it to the readers to fill it in) has always been used by the church in the context of 'crossing the river of death' in the 'night' in order to come in the 'promised land'.

The next morning by the way (after finally being blessed) Jacob gets his new name, Israel (‘god-fighter'), wounded though for the rest of his life at his hip... Read the story, if you don't know it: it is one of the gems of world-literature, a classic, which inspired lots of artists, both musical, theatrical and pictorial: Genesis 32: 22-32: Jacob at Pniel (=face of God). Jacob’s one-liner: 'Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn' (Hear how wonderful rhythmic Luther translated this sentence) f.i. inspired Schütz to one of his most impressive compositions in the Musicalische Exequien. In the rhetorical preaching tradition the clinging to the Lord to get his blessing has been juxtaposed to the clinging to Jesus to be blessed, exactly the line of Picander... wonderfully summerized in the final choral.>>

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 (Johann Ludwig 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 related 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]. Bach probably performed Stölzel’s Ich habe dich zum Lichte der Heiden gemacht” [Not extant] in 1736. He performed Ludwig Bach’s JLB-9, “Mache dich auf, werde licht,” in 1726 and a double bill of BWV 82 and 83 in 1727.

Production Notes, Provenance

Cantata 157 production notes are found in the Masaaki Suzuki BIS recording (Ibid.). Says Suzuki: << Production Notes (Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn, BWV 157) There are no extant original materials in connection with this cantata, all that remains being a full score and set of parts copied by Christian Friedrich Penzel. Dr Klaus Hofmann is of the opinion that these materials are not direct copies of the original work, and instead reflect Penzel’s own arrangement [Klaus Hofmann, ‘Bachs Kantate “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn” BWV 157, Überlegungen zu Entstehung, Bestimmung und originaler Werkgestalt’, in Bach-Jahrbuch 1982: 51-80]. In Hofmann’s hypothetical reconstruction of the work [Klaus Hofmann, ed., Johann Sebastian Bach, BWV 157, Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn (Rekonstruktion der Original fassung), Hänssler-Verlag, Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1984] the flauto traverso and the oboe d’amore are allocated to the first and second voices in the third movement (recitative), and he does away with the poorly-made violetta part that would appear to have been a later addition. Given that this cantata was composed for a funeral and has a meditative, chamber music-like tone, Hofmann further considers the viola d’amore to be more appropriate than the violin for the high string part [recit. no. 3], a suggestion which the present performance follows.
>> © Masaaki Suzuki 2012

Provenance: 1755/56. Penzel’s score copy, P 1046, dated to 1755/56, has no title page, only the incipit, “Ich ladich nicht, du segnest mich denn,” with no viola part in the recitative (no. 3). It was one of a three sacred non-chorale cantatas (BWV 150, 142) at Leipzig locations that Penzel also copied at this time. These works were not part of the estate division in which Anna Magdalena received the chorale cantata parts sets which she donated to the Thomas School, and stepson Friedemann received the scores. Score Copy Provenance: C. F. Penzel - J. G. Schuster (1801) - F. Hauser (1833) - J. Hauser (1870) - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1904);

Penzel’s extant parts set, St 386, is dated to 1760 when he assisted his father as cantor at Oelsnitz or in 1767 when he was cantor at Merseberg. Penzel’s parts set copy lists the “Purification” feast and has a violetta part in the recitative (no. 3) and chorale (no. 5), doubling the tenor, as well as Violin I and 2. This version is believed to be a later Bach setting of Cantata 157 for Purification, and possibly part of the cantata estate division. At this time Penzel also copied BWV 159, 158, and 25, works probably in the possession of Friedemann with whom he corresponded and who made available manuscripts to be copied for a fee. Parts Set Provenance: C. F. Penzel - J. G. Schuster - F. Hauser (1833) - J. Hauser (1870) - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1904);


1 Cantata 157 BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano,, Score BGA, References: BGA XXXII (Cantatas 151-160, Ernset Naumann, 1886; NBAKB I/34 (Purification, Ryuichi Higuchi, 1990: 27); Bach Compendium BC A 170 (Purification), B 20 (Funeral); Zwang K 163.
2 Cited in Malcolm Boyd, Cantata 157 essay, Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd (Oxford University Press: 1999: 233). Cantata 157 funeral text originally published in Picander’s Ernst-Scherhaffte und Satyrische Gedicht, Vol. 1 (Leipzig 1727; The printed text of Cantata 157 is preceded by a Picander strophic funeral ode for Ponickau, as was the custom. Bach probably also set the incipit, “Ich lasse dich nicht, as a double chorus motet, BWV Anh. 159 in Weimar (OCC:JSB: 233f).
3 Source, “Commentary,” ). A revised version appears in Dürr’s Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 766-68).
4Hofmann/Suzuki notes,[BIS-1961-SACD].pdf. BCW Recording details,


BCML Discussions To Come: Johann Ludwig Bach Cantatas JLB 3, “Darum will ich auch erwählen,” Septuagesima Sunday (1726), and JLB 4, “Darum säet euch Gerechtigkeit,” Sexagesima Sunday (1726), as well as possible sources and later uses of funeral Cantatas BWV deest [BC D-6], “Was ist, das wir Leben nennen? (What is this that we call life), and lost Cantata BWV Anh. 209, “Liebster Gott, vergisst du mich” (“Dearest God, will you forget me?).

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 11, 2017):
Cantata BWV 157 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 157 "Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!" (I am not letting you go, unless you bless me first!) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for the Inauguration of the he Feast of Purification of Mary [intended for the Funeral of Johann Christoph von Ponickau] of 1727 and performed for the 1st time in Pomßen. The cantata was performed in Leipzig again a year later on the same event. The cantata is scored for tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, oboe, oboe d'amore, violin solo, 2 violins, violetta (viola) & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 157 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (9):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios & 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 discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 157 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


William Hoffman wrote (September 12, 2017):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for your continuous updates for the BCML. The recordings just keep coming!


Cantata BWV 157: Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn! for Feast of Purification of Mary (1727) / Funeral
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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Last update: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 15:01