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Cantata BWV 83
Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of February 7, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (February 9, 2016):
Cantata 83: 'Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde' Intro & Purification

Four days before the pre-Lent period began with Bach’s Cantata 144, “Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin” (Take what is yours and go on your way) for Septuagesima Sunday, Bach presented the joyous solo Cantata BWV “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” (Joyful time in the new covenant) for the Feast of Purification on Wednesday February 2, 1723. Scored for solo alto, tenor and bass (Bach’s favorite vocal complement) with uplifting horns, Bach’s last solo cantata during the Christmas-Purification period features two da-capo dance-style arias (nos. 1, 3), with virtuoso violin suggesting a concerto origin, as well as settings of the original Simeon gospel canticle Nunc Dimittis (Now Lord, let your servant depart, Luke 2: 29-31) as a bass intonation with recitative (no. 2) and Luther’s 1524 German setting paraphrase, “Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener” as the closing plain chorale (no. 5), final stanza 4, “Er ist das Heil und selig Licht / Für die Heiden” (He is salvation and blessed light / for the heathen);1

The opening alto aria with horns, solo violin and the usual orchestra (two oboes and strings) is in allemande style, while the tenor aria (no. 3), “Eile, Herz, voll Freudigkeit / Vor den Gnadenstuhl zu treten” (Hurry, my heart, filled with joy / to walk before the seat of grace) is in gavotte style 6/8 in the A section, with solo violin and strings. The alto returns with a secco recitative (no. 4), “Ja, merkt dein Glaube noch viel Finsternis” (Yes, even though your faith is aware there is still much darkness). The sense of joy and the emphasis on Simeon’s canticle are hallmarks of Bach’s Purification cantatas. Bach’s mostly-festive Purification performance calendar (see below), proved quite busy and the half dozen works of his and two other composers proved to be one of his busiest services, probably second only two Christmas Day.

Cantata 83 probably was performed on the Feast of the Purification 1724 at the early service of the Nikolaikirchke, Superintendent Salomon Deyling presenting the sermon on the Gospel, Luke 2:22-32 (Presentation of Jesus in the temple and Simeon’s Canticle [2:29-31]). The record will be found in the forthcoming Martin Petzoldt Bach Commentary, Vol. 3, Passions-Oratorios, Motets and Special Sacred Cantatas. The prescribed order of presentation of cantatas in the two main Leipzig churches, would require the main vesper service for Purification be held at the St. Thomas Church. The day’s Epistle in Bach’s time was Malachi 3:1-4 (The Lord shall suddenly come to his temple). The German text of Martin Luther’s 1545 translation and the text of the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611 are found at BCW,

Introit motets for both Purification main and vesper services 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. Introit motets 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.

Cycle 1 Cantata Forms

Cantata 83 is the last in the second series of solo cantatas Bach composed/presented during the first Leipzig cycle. The others BWV 153, 154, 155, and 81 are, respectively for the Sunday after New Year and the 1st, 2nd and 4th Sundays after Epiphany. Except for BWV 155 (a repeat from Weimar), the others varied in length from seven to nine movements, alternating arias and recitatives but having from one to three plain chorales, all with closing chorales. Because of the varied length a number of chorales, it is assumed that scholar Alfred Dürr did not categorize them in the first cycle symmetrical forms of chorus- and multiple-chorale cantatas, which had opening biblical texts and same number of movements.

In the heterogenous 1723-24 first cycle of some 70 cantatas, Bach repeated some 20 from Weimar, adapting and expanding three (BWV 70, 147, 186) into two-part cantatas, repeated BWV 21 and newly composed BWV 75 and 76 for Trinity 1 and 2 1723. These were presented before and after the sermon. Bach also presented double bills (some repeated from Weimar) before and after the sermon, occasionally during Trinity BWV 24-185 (+3) and BWV 179-199 (+11), BWV 181/18 (Sexagesima), BWV 182 and Anh.199 (Palm Sunday), BWV 31-4 (Easter Sunday), BWV 172-59 (Pentecost) and BWV 194-165 (Trinityfest). Originally two-part cantata BWV 22-23 was Bach’s probe on Quinquagesima Estomihi 1723 and possibly both repeated as a double-bill in 1724. Bach also parodied four Köthen serenades as Cantatas BWV 66 and 134 for Easter Monday and Tuesday, and BWV 173-184 for Easter Monday and Tuesday.


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 Purification of the Virgin, Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Purification of St Mary the Virgin], and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) 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. Date: Fixed date - February 2 (BCW,

"Simeon was a devout Jew who, according to the book of Luke, had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Saviour. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ceremony of consecration of the firstborn son (not the circumcision, but rather after the time of Mary's purification: at least 40 days after the birth), Simeon was there, and he took Jesus into his arms and uttered the words of this prayer.

"The Nunc Dimittis is the traditional 'Gospel Canticle' of Night Prayer (Compline), just as Benedictus and Magnificat are the traditional Gospel Canticles of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer respectively. Hence the Nunc Dimittis is found in the liturgical night office of many western denominations, including the Lutheran service of Compline. Among Lutheran churches, the Nunc Dimittis may be sung following the reception of the Eucharist (from Wikipedia).

Francis Browne's BCW 2011 "Notes" and translations (Luke, Chapter 2) for Martin Luther's "Das nunc dimittis" has three translations:

Now Lord, let your servant depart
According to your word in peace [29]
For my eyes have seen the salvation [30]
Which you have prepared before all nations [31]
A light to enlighten the heathen
And the glory of your people Israel. [32]

Martin Luther
Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener
iFriede fahren, wie du gesagt hast; [29]
Denn meine Augen haben deinen Heiland gesehen [30]
welchen du bereitet hast vor allen Völkern, [31]
ein Licht, zu erleuchten die Heiden
und zum Preis deines Volks Israel. [32]

Latin Vulgate
Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine
secundum verbum tuum in pace. [29]
Quiaviderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, [30]
quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum, [31]
lumen ad revelationem gentium
et gloriam plebis tuae Israel. [32]

Bach's only setting of "Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener" is found in Cantata BWV 83, "Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bande" (Joyful time in new stirring). Movement No. 2 begins with the Bass Intonation of Verses 29-30, followed by an original bass recitative, "Was uns als Menschen schrecklich scheint" (What seems to us so dreadful from our human point of view), closing with Verse 31. Luther's "Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener" is found in Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682 (NLGB) No. 54 (Purification), melody HDEKM I,1,501a - no Zahn melody listing. The Luther melody information is found in BCW,

Luther's 4-stanza, 6-line "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I travel there) is his paraphrase of the Nunc dimittis and melody (Zahn 3986, Dorian), Johann Walter, Gesangbuch 1524). The NLGB 56, Purification) is as a four-verse alliterative prayer of thanksgiving and reconciliation with death. Text and Translation, BCW Melody with Bach's other uses, and Use of the Chorale Melody by other composers is found at BCW,

Cantata 83 Overview

Joy infuses Cantata 83, which uses two movements with virtuoso violin parts, says Malcolm Boyd in his Cantata 83 essay (edited) in the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach.3 << The following is a quotation from Oxford Composer Companions J. S. Bach: <<The cantata's basic tone of cheerful confidence is established in the opening movement... in which the alto soloist's ecstatic melismas on the 'joyful' words 'erfreute' and 'freudig' compete for attention with a virtuoso solo violin part and accompanying forces consisting of two oboes, two horns, strings and continuo. Noteworthy in the B section of the aria is the solo violin's bariolage* with which Bach sounds the death-knell at 'letzten Stunde' ('last hour'). In the second movement the bass intones three verses of the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2: 29-31) to a version of the medieval psalm tone no.8, while strings and continuo weave around it a filigree of two-part counterpoint, mostly in strict canon - almost as if the ancient melody had gathered cobwebs. The first verse is separated from the other two by a section of recitative twice interrupted by reminders of the canon... The movement is quite unlike anything else in Bach's music.

Violin virtuosity returns in the succeeding tenor aria, in da capo form, and once again the singer is called upon to match it with protracted melismas... The text is based on Hebrews 4: 16, and after a brief alto recitative, the cantata ends ... with Martin Luther's paraphrase of the same verse... which, as usual, Bach set in a plain four-part harmonization with instrumental doubling.>> [*Note: bariolage: special bowed string sound: “the same note is played alternately on two strings, one stopped and one open” (Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, ed. Stanley Sadie (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988: 56).]

Purification Cantatas, Cantata 83 voices

Surviving Purification cantatas and Bach’s preference for the three lower voices, alto, tenor, and bass is discussed in Julian Mincham’s introduction to Cantata 83, BCW << Boyd (Ibid.: 296) lists five surviving cantatas for the Purification of the Virgin Mary, Cs 83, 125, 82, 157 and 158 although Dürr (pp 288 and 756) casts doubt as to whether the last two should be so designated. There are, however, elements which appear to unite these works, one being the omission of choruses in all but C 125 (see vol 3, chapter 36 for further contextual comments on these cantatas).

A noteworthy feature is the predominance of the lower voices in these works. C 82 is for solo bass and C 157 uses only tenor and bass. Cs 125 includes an alto aria and recitative and 83 one alto aria. Cs 83 and 158 are predominantly for bass alone or for tenor and bass. In all five cantatas the only solo role for the soprano is the intoning of a chorale line within a bass aria in C 158/2.

Why should this be so? Is it merely coincidental? Certainly the purification with all its implications of blessedness, humility and obedience attracts a sense of reverence and veneration and Bach would have been careful to ensure that his musical offerings were justly appropriate. Might it be that it was deemed inappropriate to make any substantial use of the soprano voice, that which most resembled a woman′s, in works about the Blessed Virgin? Was it thought better to celebrate Her purity more as an abstract ideal rather than representing her as an actual human being? Alas, although the predominant use of lower timbres seems too consistent to be accidental, there are no obvious answers to these questions.>>

Cantata 83 Movements, scoring, incipits, key, meter.4

1. Aria da capo concertante [Alto; Corno I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino solo, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” (Joyful time in the new covenant); B. “Wie freudig wird zur letzten Stunde / Die Ruhestatt, das Grab bestellt!” (How happily at the last hour / will our resting-place, the grave, be prepared for us!); F Major; 4/4 allemande style.
2. Intonation (Luke 2 :29-31) and accompanied Recitative [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola all' unisono, Continuo]: Intonation, “Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Friede fahren, wie du gesaget hast.” (Lord, now let your servant depart in peace as you have said.); Recitative, “Was uns als Menschen schrecklich scheint, / Ist uns ein Eingang zu dem Leben.” (What seems to us so dreadful from our human point of view / is for us an entrance into life.); Intonation, “Denn meine Augen haben deinen Heiland gesehen, welchen du bereitet hast für allen Völkern” (For my eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all the nations.); B-flat Major; 6/8, 4/4.
3. Aria da-capo [Tenor; Violino solo, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): “Eile, Herz, voll Freudigkeit / Vor den Gnadenstuhl zu treten” (Hurry , my heart, filled with joy / to walk before the seat of grace.); B. “Du sollst deinen Trost empfangen / Und Barmherzigkeit erlangen” (You will welcome your consolation / and be granted mercy); 6/6 gavotte-style (A), 4/4 (B); 4/4.
4. Recitative [Alto; Continuo]: “Ja, merkt dein Glaube noch viel Finsternis” (Yes, even though your faith is aware there is still much darkness); d minor to a minor; 4/4.
5. Chorale plain [SATB; Corno I e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Er ist das Heil und selig Licht / Für die Heiden” (He is salvation and blessed light / for the heathen); d minor Dorian; 4/4.

Purification Emphasis on Simeon Canticle

Bach’s treatment of the Feast of the Purification focuses on the gospel’s Simeon’s Canticle rather than Jesus’ presentation in the temple, says Klaus Hofmann in the 2002 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantatas recordings.5 << The Lutheran church also adopted three Lady Days from the pre-Reformation tradition, and in Leipzig at Bach’s time these were still celebrated: The feast of the Purification of the Virgin (commonly known as Candlemas) on 2nd February, the Annunciation on 25th March and the Visitation of Mary on 2nd July. For the feast of the Purification, for which the present cantata is intended, the gospel (Luke 2,22-32) is about the Jewish custom of the purification of the mother and the presentation of the infant in the temple (here Mary and Jesus); at the centre of the tale, however, sthe figgure of the elderly, devout Simeon, to whom God has promised that he will not die until he has seen the Messiah, who takes Jesus in his arms in the temple and strikes up a song in praise of God: ‘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.’ Traditionally, the interpretation of the gospel text draws our gaze from the figgure of Simeon to the character of the individual Christian and his actual death, and draws the conclusion that anyone who has embraced the Saviour in his arms and his heart can look forward with confidence to death.

Bach’s unknown text author - evidently a profound theologian — follows the same course. The opening aria praises the ‘new covenant’ established by Jesus between God and mankind, in which faith, in anticipation of joy, looks forward to death. The second movement quotes Simeon’s song of praise and explains it in the following manner: death, however terrible it may appear to us, is the point of entry into eternal life. The following aria (third movement) encourages us — in close association with Hebrews 4,16, to accept death joyfully, promising comfort and mercy, and urges us to pray. The recitative (fourth movement) endeavours to dispel our doubts and refers to Jesus as the ‘helle Licht’ (‘bright light’) that is also alluded to in the concluding Chorale. This is the final strophe of the song Mir Fried and Freud ich fahr dahin (In Peace and Jay I now depart; Martin Luther,'1524, after 'the Nunc dimittis, Simeon’s song of praise), which even now is heard on this day in the Protestant church.

Bach’s orchestra for this festive occasion calls for additional brass players — two horns. The most prominent role, however, is assigned to the solo violin, which in the two do capo arias for the alto (first movement) and tenor (third movement) stands out as a concertante instrument. The opening aria, ‘Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde’ (‘Blessed time of the new covenant’), is based on a dance model and is in fact an allemande of recognizably instrumental character, even though it is provided with a vocal line; it has clear points of contact with the theme of the allemande from the French Suite in G major, BWV 816, which was also composed in this period. In 1739 Johann Mattheson, the leading German musicologist of Bach’s time, aptly characterized this dance as follows: ‘The allemande... is a broken, serious and well structured harmony that creates an image of a satisfied or contented spirit who takes delight in good order and peace’. By the term ‘broken harmony’ (‘gebrochene Harmonie’) he means broken chords, as found in the solo violin part; the keywords ‘serious’, ‘satisfied’ and ‘contented’, along with the other indications of the dance’s character, correspond perfectly to the restrained form of joyfulness that is the underlying emotional state of Bach’s aria. In the middle section, to the words ‘Wie freudig wird zur letzten Stunde die Ruhestatt, das Grab bestellt’ (‘How joyfully, at the final hour, is the quiet place, the waiting grave’), Bach creates the sound of death’s bells in the solo violin part: the bell imitation is achieved by a bariolage effect, the alternation of stopped and open strings.

The second movement makes a logical division between the realm of the gospel quotation (in which the words of Simeon are heard) and, embodied by the solo bass, the words of the Nunc dimittis recited in the traditional 8th psalm tone, accompanied by a skilfully written, two-part structure (for long stretches set out in canon) from the violins, the violas and the continuo group. and the sermon-like explanations in the style of a recitative.

Like the opening alto aria. the tenor aria ‘Eile, Herz, voll Freudigkeit’ (‘l-lurry, heart full of rejoicing’; third movement) resembles a type of dance, in this case the gavotte. Johann Mattheson pointed out: ‘The emotion it conjures up is really one of most exultant joy’. This. moreover, corresponds perfectly and entirely to the textual content of the movement.

The last recitative and concluding Chorale [nos. 4, 5] require no commentary. As so often, Bach ends his cantata with a simple, four-part hymn setting and thereby draws the congregation, silently singing along, into his work of art. © Klaus Hofmann 2002

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 (; Thomas Braatz' BCW Provenance discusses the connections,;
*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.


1 Cantata 83 Details and revised and updated BCW Discography,
Score Vocal & Piano [1.26 MB],, Score BGA [2.12 MB], References: BGA XX/1 (Cantatas 81-90, Wilhelm Rust, 1872), NBA KB I/28.1 (Purification cantatas, Matthias Wendt, 1994); Bach Compendium| BC: A 167 | Zwang: K 61.
2BCW Motets& Chorales for Feast of Purification of Mary,
3 Boyd article, Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 158).
4 Cantata 83 German text and Francis Browne BCW English translation,
5Hofmann notes, BCW[BIS-CD1311].pdf; BCW Recording details,

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 13, 2016):
Cantata BWV 83 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Solo Cantata BWV 83 "Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde" (Joyful time in the new covenant) for the Feast of Purification the Mary on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 horns, 2 oboes, solo violin, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (7):
Recordings of Individual Movements (4):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios 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 solo cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 83 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 the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 83: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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