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Cantata BWV 49
Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen
Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 1, 2001):
BWV 49 - Other comments:

In all there are 7 cantatas for obbligato organ: BWV 27, BWV 29, BWV 35, BWV 49, BWV 162, BWV 169, and BWV 170. Who played the organ part? Speculations include Bach himself or his son Wilhelm Friedemann.

Little and Jenne have identified Mvt. 1 as a passepied, but also as a giga of the second type. Ludwig Finscher describes the soprano aria as having an 'almost coquettish allemande melody.' What I really would like to know is what type of dance the final duet is. Is it a bourée? If there is any cantata mvt. that shows tremendous angularity, it must be this one. The members of the congregation that heard the first performance of this cantata must have had difficulty keeping their feet from tapping the floor or moving their head and hands in time to the music. The rhythm is truly infectious.

With three mvts. of this cantata in the key of E major, we need to be reminded of Eric Chafe's comments relating this extreme key (in Bach's vocal music there are no mvts. with a key signature greater than 4 sharps) to 'Redemption,' in this case Christ redeems the church as well as the individuals that are part of it.

Finscher hears in the bass aria Mvt. 2 the "yearning" chromaticism as the demands of the bridegroom and the "gentle" triplets as the picture of the bride as a dove. [Use your imagination!] Mvt. 3. becomes a 'secular' duettino and in Mvt. 4 (soprano aria) he hears a "lovesick" sighing. Finscher summarizes very well the odd combination of erotic and yet religious text of this cantata: "Secular joy and piety appear to be fused in one entity through the medium of music."

Dürr carefully dissects how the unknown librettist managed to select carefully from the Gospel text, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) just what he needed in order to paint a happy picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church: While basing the images and phrases upon the traditional "Dialogus" of the 17th century with references to the Song of Solomon, the unknown author avoids the problematical aspects of the Matthew text: the original wedding guests refused to come to the wedding banquet when everything was ready for them, the unworthiness of the others who had been invited, but found other things to do that were more important, and the most drastic element of all - the invited guest who did not wear the appropriate wedding attire was bound and thrown into hell! All of these things are carefully avoided and only the positive aspects are chosen for transformation or elaboration. Who can easily forget the text of the soprano aria in Mvt. 4? Some commentators liken this to a young woman admiring herself in her new wedding gown in front of a mirror, a woman who is secure in the thought that she will be able to attract and hold on to her man. Although the erotic element is definitely present, it is necessary not to lose sight of the spiritual message which is that she (the individual human soul) has developed sufficiently to radiate spiritual light through the aura which appears as a beautiful dress. If you are familiar with "Mignon's Song" from "Wilhelm Meister" by Goethe, particularly as set by Schubert D 727 and D 877, the meaning behind the image of the 'white dress' becomes more apparent. Other images and partial quotations are derived from Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Revelations.

Dürr suggests that the introductory ritornello with its wide interval leaps moving quickly upwards and then downwards represents the zealous searching of the bridegroom for his bride. Mvt. 2 (recitative) changes to a love duet with a dance-like rhythm at the words, "Komm Schönste." The soprano aria he sees as a masterpiece of characterization with the oboe d'amore and violoncello piccolo 'throwing complementary figures at each other' while the bride is turning around and viewing herself in the mirror with complacency. In the final mvt. Bach manages to include a chorale in the soprano part as otherwise the lack of a choir would become too noticeable. Both the organ part and the bass voice have motifs that are derived from this chorale.

Some musical pictures to listen for: Mvt. 2 : "Ich geh und suche" ("I am going out and searching for") = walking upward stepwise on the notes of the scale; at the 3rd occurrence of "mit Verlangen" ("with desire") = chromatic upward motion; "hingegangen" ("having gone there" ) = stepwise down the scale and then the reverse. Mvt. 3: Christ receives a musical aura of string accompaniment as in Bach's Passions; the motif of the last mvt. is repeated in the fast section to lend unity to the cantata as a whole; soprano: "ich falle dir zu Füßen" ("I fall to your feet") begins on a high note and ends on a very low note; on the words, "laß dich küssen" ("let me kiss you") both parts move absolutely parallel to each other for the 1st time in this mvt. Mvt. 4 "entzünden" ("to ignite with fervor") the upward moving figure already introduced by the instruments is now sung on this word; "bestehn" ("to continue to exist") receives the longest note in this mvt.; "in Himmel gehn" ("to go to heaven") has a long upward moving passage. Mvt. 5 "Himmel" ("Heaven") receives the highest note in the mvt. "Hier komm ich, Jesu" ("Here I come, Jesus") moves upward; "Sei bis in Tod getreu" ("Be faithful unto death") downward moving to death. Mvt. 6 "Ich komme bald" ("I will be coming soon") a downward moving figure. The short two-eighth-note figures in the strings and oboe d'amore represent Christ knocking at the door.

 

Cantata BWV 49: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources

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Last update: ıAugust 22, 2012 ı20:11:07