Aryeh Oron wrote (May 25, 2002):
BWV 59 - Background
The background below is taken from the following sources:
Alec Robertson: ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972)
W. Murray Young: ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’ (1989)
The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.
Mvt. 1: Arua (Duett) for Soprano & Bass
Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten,
(Who loves me will keep my word)
Tromba I/II, Timpani, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Robertson: This is a modest cantata for one the chief festivals in the Church’s year. The trumpets and timpani give dignity to the charming duet, in which the voices sing in canon, and freely. The words ‘Wer mich liebet’ and its motif precede each of their five entries and in the last one they sing together in sixths.
Young: We must remember that Bach would use a boy to sing the soprano part, and one may wonder if his voice would be strong enough to be sufficiently audible above this magnificent crescendo of sound. Certainly the soprano can be clearly heard as she sings in canon with the bass in our more modern performances. The trumpets add splendour to their voices; Bach generally used them to indicate royalty or divinity. In this case, they support Jesus’ words quoted in the text. This is a most passionate and persuasive aria.
Mvt. 2: Recitative for Soprano
O, was sind das vor Ehren,
(O what are these honours)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Robertson: There is now a mention of the Holy Spirit who with the Son and the Father will enter the souls of the faithful.
Young: Departs from the Gospel here, to comments on the honour God bestows on us by sending His Holy Spirit as well as His Son. Mention is made again of His dwelling in our souls, with her vocal arioso treatment of the last two lines.
Mvt. 3: Chorale
Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,
(Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Verse 1 of Luther’s version of the plainsong sequence ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’, the melody of which is altered almost beyond recognition>
Young: Based on stanza 1 of Luther’s hymn with the same title. The text is interesting because it states that God has collected all the people in the world, irrespective of their languages, into adoration of Him. Therefore we should praise Him, as the twice repeated 'Halleluja!' at he end triumphantly sings.
Mvt. 4: Aria for Bass
Die Welt mit allen Königreichen,
(The world with all its kingdoms)
Violino solo, Continuo
Robertson: A short bass aria contrasting material with spiritual values and concluding ‘how blessed we shall then be / when after this time on earth / we shall live with you in heaven’. The only indication that a chorale is to follow is to be found in the original bass part on which ‘Chorale seque’ is written by the copyist, but it is not known id it is Bach’s direction.
Young: Accompanied by the strings and continuo in a mystical aura of sound, the bas sings that God’s grandeur is far above any splendour on this earth. How blessed will we be, when we shall dwell with Him in His heavenly Kingdom after our time on earth. There is something mysterious underlying the tones of the bass voice (here not representing Christ), which could come from Bach’s pietistic thinking at this moment of his composition.
Mvt. 5 Chorale
Some of the conductors (Thomas, Harnoncourt, Koopman, Gardiner) chose to add at the end of the cantata another strophe (‘Du helige Brunst, süßer Trost’) of the same chorale with the same melody and instrumentation as the chorale of Mvt. 3. Others (Schröder, Rilling, Néméth, and Leusink) left the cantata as is, with the aria for bass as the last movement, and the feeling is that something was left unfinished in the air.