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Cantata BWV 157
Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 18, 2012 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 17, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 157 -- Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue discussions of cantatas for feast days with BWV 157, the fourth of five works for the Feast of Purification of Mary. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via:

The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 157 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 157 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

William Hoffman wrote (November 17, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 157: Genesis & Purification Connections

Bach's odyssey of performances of cantatas for the Feast of the Purification (Presentation) on February 2 in Leipzig took a new turn in 1728 when he produced a new Cantata BWV 157, "Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn" (I leave Thee not, Thou bless me then) that did double duty, as several of his Weimar cantatas had done five years earlier.

In the case of Cantata 157, Bach was able to explore the theme of Jesus as the acceptor of (and deliverer from) death following the example of Simeon in the popular <Nunc dimittis> Presentation canticle, as well as provide a memorial work for a valued civic official. Again, Bach was able to broaden his textual and musical materials to fashion and adapt a dialogue cantata for two male voices (tenor and bass) that filled several creative needs and closed with an appropriate chorale. [See BCW 157, Details,]

This serendipitous opportunity, coupled with Bach's pragmatic creative methods at this stage in his Leipzig tenure as cantor and music director, enabled him to purse and fulfill motives central to his calling. The historical context was unique to Bach as he pursued new directions in his calling of a well-ordered church music to the Glory of God. He had accomplished his initial goal of creating three annual church-year main service cycles of musical sermons. His Purification compositions were both emblematic of his accomplishments and indicative of possible directions as well as continuing influences.

Central to this was Bach's other major annual commitment, to compose and present one of four Gospel accounts of Christ's Passion and Death at the most important Vesper Service on Good Friday. This responsibility he would fulfill almost annually until his own death in 1750. Bach's production pattern for both service cantatas and Passions had been consistent since he began on the First Sunday after Trinity in 1723. In his first cycle (1723-24) he created new music whenever necessary, as well as the St. John Passion, and in his second cycle (1724-25) he fashioned works that were infused with popular hymns as he added as well chorale settings to his second version of the St. John Passion.

The cantatas took a back seat in the third cycle (that took two years to complete). While Bach included 18 works of his cousin Johann Ludwig during 1726, as his ambition to realize Matthew's dramatic, extended Passion account grew beyond even his traditional bounds. Thus, for the third annual Passion presentation, Bach substituted an established work, the so-called "Keiser" or "Hamburg" St. Mark Passion in 1726. The next year, Bach finally presented the St. Matthew Passion, after concluding his third cycle two months earlier with the Purification Cantata BWV 82, "Ich habe genug" (I have enough), and permanently ceased regular cantata composition.

In 1728, Bach was able to take a complete composer's holiday from all vocal music. He had already planned to repeat the St. John Passion on Good Friday when he received a special commission for an important memorial service for a Saxon dignitary, Johann Christoph von Ponickau, chamberlin and court counselor, who had died on October 31, 1726. It was Bach's third opportunity to honor dignitaries, after the Saxon Princess Christiane Eberhardine memorial with Cantata BWV 198 on October 17, 1727, and previously in Weimar, a funeral cantata for his late, beloved Prince Johann Ernst in 1717.

The theme of death related not only to the annual Passion but also to the Feast of Purification and to memorial tributes (as well as the 16th Sunday after Trinity). Thus, Bach already may have composed the extended three-part opening tenor-bass duet of Cantata BWV 157 for the St. Matthew Passion, using the biblical dictum text from Genesis, 32:16: "I leave three not, until you bless me." Bach also relied on Picander, collaborator and librettist of his St. Matthew Passion, to provide texts for the successive tenor aria and recitative, as well as the bass scena (extended rondeau aria with inserted recitatives), "Yet, I hold my Jesus fast," related to the <Nunc dimittis> and a possible adaptation of existing music.

Cantata BWV 157 closes with a plain, four-voice chorale: "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht,/ Geh ihm ewig an der Seiten" (I do not leave my Jesus,/ I go along always at his side), the closing sixth stanza of Christian Keymann's 1648 hymn "Of Death & Dying," with the same title (<Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, No. 346, Zahn melody 3449). Francis Browne's English translation is found at BCW, Bach also set this as a plain chorale closing Part 1 of the 1727 version of the St. Matthew Passion, as well as for various <omnes tempore> Epiphany and Trinity Time cantatas (BWV 70[a], 124, and 154).

Cantata BWV 157 in its original version was performed at the Ponickau family home church in Pomßen in a solemn memorial service on February 6, 1727, according to the text in the printed commemoration sermon. Another cantata, BWV Anh.I 209, was performed after the sermon and the music will be discussed in detail in late May next year during the BCW Discussion of Cantatas for Funerals (and Memorial Services). "A piece of funeral music whose subject was death of one who had set his sights on Jesus could thus at any time be understood and performed as an interpretation of the Purification Gospel," says Alfred Dürr in <Cantatas of JSB> (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005: 767).

Given the service proximity to Purification (February 2), it is possible that Cantata 157 was serendipitously first performed in Leipzig on that date, although it probably was done later, given the sole surviving Christian Friedrich Penzel parts set copy of c.1767 with the cover designation for Purification.

Picander provided Bach with the text for the definitive version of the St. Matthew Passion, presented on Good Friday 1729. Still, wasn't finished with Purification music. For Purification (Feb. 2, 1729), the Picander cycle printed text only survives, BWV deest/P-16, "Herr, nun lässest du deiner Diener" (Lord, let they servant go), closing with Movement No. 6, plain chorale, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (S.1),

For Purification, 1731, Cantata BWV 82, "Ich habe genug," was repeated. Later that year, Bach reperformed cantatas from Cycles 1 and 3 throughout the Easter Season. See BCW, Lutheran Church Year Sundays and Holidays in Year 1731,

For Purification 1734, Purification Chorale Cantata BWV 125, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I journey therein) may have been reperformed as part of a complete repeat of the second cycle. Source critical dating of the parts set shows that it also was repeated about 1736-39.

Other Purification Music

Cantata BWV 82, "Ich habe genug," has no closing chorale. It was one of Bach's favorites, with the opening aria also found in the Anna Magdalena Songbook, begin at Trinity Time 1725 when Bach took a break from regular cantata composition. There are two versions, in c minor for bass or mezzo soprano solo, and in e minor for soprano solo with flute replacing oboe.

Composed in Leipzig, 1727
1st performance (Solo Bass Version): February 2, 1727 - Leipzig
2nd performance (Solo Soprano Version): February 2, 1731 - Leipzig
3rd performance (Solo Soprano Version): 1735 - Leipzig
4th performance (Solo Bass Version): 1746-1747 - Leipzig
5th performance (Bass or Mezzo-soprano?): 1747-1748 - Leipzig

There are three German chorale versions of the <Nunc dimittis> that Bach set, most notably, Luther's popular paraphrase, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I journey therein, NLGB No. 56) in Cantatas BWV 95/1c, 83/5, and Chorale Cantata 125, between 1723 and 1725. There are three other settings, all in E Major:

+Tobias Kiel's "Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf" (Lord God, now open up heaven, no NLGB listing); in E Major are the early settings of "Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf" (Lord God, now open up heaven), BWV 1092, Neumeister Chorale, and BWV 617, <Orgelbüchlein> chorale; and

+ David Behem's "Herr, nun laß in Freide" (Lord, now let in peace, no NLGB listing; text, 10 stanzas, after 1663; melody anonymous, Hymnbook of the Bohemian Brothers 1694. Bach setting is plain chorale, BWV 337 in E Major. This may have been composed about 1730.

It is possible that Bach used these two early chorale prelude and later plain chorale settings with Cantata 82 reperformances, especially the version in the related key of e minor. Performances may also have occurred during a Purification Mass, especially at the Sermon Hymn between the cantata and the sermon. See Purification Mass, below.

<Nunc dimittis> Text

Here is the German text and English translations of some of the stanzas of David Behem's "Herr, nun laß in Freide," <Nunct dimmitis> hymn (C. S. Terry translation S. 1, 2, 7, 9. [<Four-Part Chorales of JSB> London : Oxford University Press 1929, 1964] and *Hanssler V. 82 (S. 1, 2, 10). Original German 10 stanzas at:

1. Herr, nun laß in Friede,
lebenssatt und müde,
deinen Diener fahren
zu den Himmelsscharen
selig und im Stillen,
doch nach deinem Willen.

(Lord, of life I'm weary,
Fain would I be near Thee!
Let me, all resigning,
See Thy glory shining,
With all joy fulfilled,
As Thyself has willed.)

(*Lord, now lettest Thou Thy
Servant depart in peace,
Weary as he is,
To the heavenly host
Blessed and content,
According to Thy will)

2. Gerne will ich sterben
und den Himmel erben;
Christus mich geleitet,
welchen Gott bereitet
zu dem Licht der Heiden,
das uns setzt in Freuden.

(Death no terrors holdeth,
Heaven rich treasures openeth,
Christ my footsteps guideth,
Christ Whom God provideth
For the blinded heathen
And of truth the Beacon)

(*Gladly would I die
And inherit Heaven;
Christ shall be my guide,
Whom God has foreordained
To light the way of all,
Which fills us with great joy)

3. Hier hab ich gestritten,
Ungemach erlitten,
ritterlich gekämpfet,
manchen Feind gedämpfet,
Glauben auch gehalten
richtig mit den Alten.

4. Tränen muß ich lassen,
weinen ohne Maßen,
schwere Gänge laufen
mit der Christen Haufen,
über Sünde klagen,
Kreuz und Trübsal tragen.

5. Nunmehr soll sich´s wenden,
Kampf und Lauf sich enden,
Gott will mich erlösen
bald von allem Bösen;
es soll besser werden,
als es war auf Erden.

6. Frieden werd ich finden,
ledig sein von Sünden
und auf allen Seiten
nicht mehr müssen streiten;
mich soll ganz umgeben
himmlisch Freudenleben.

7. Mir ist beigeleget,
wo man Zepter träget,
eine schöne Krone
schon zum Gnadenlohne;
da werd ich ergötzet
und zur Ruh gesetzet.

8. Mein Erlöser lebet
und mich selber hebet
aus des Todes Kammer;
da liegt aller Jammer!
Fröhlich, ohne Schrecken,
will er mich aufwecken.

(vii My Redeemer liveth,
And my spirit biddeth
Leave death's gloomy chamber,
Follow Him, my Saviour,
And one day in heaven
Know that He is calling.)

9. Dieser Leib soll gehen
und in Klarheit stehen,
wenn die Toten werden
erstehn von der Erden,
Christum werd ich schauen,
darauf kann ich trauen.

(ix Ihm nun will ich singen,)
10. Christo will ich singen,
Lob und Ehre bringen,
rühmen seine Güte
mit Seel und Gemüte,
preisen seinen Namen
ohn Aufhören. Amen.

(ix Therefore let us praise him)
10. Christ will I sing,
Grateful anthems raising,
For his favours many
To man's soul and body.
Praise Him loudly, all men,
Praise Him ever! Amen)

(* I will sing for Christ
Bring him praise and honor,
Extolling his great goodness
With soul and heart and mind
To glorify his name and
nevermore desist. Amen)

Purification Mass

BCW C-1, J.S. Bach: Purification Mass

Reconstruction of Mass for the the Feast of Purification of Virgin Mary, as performed in Leipzig c1740:
Missa Brevis in G minor, BWV 235 [24:05]
Cantata BWV 82 Ich habe genug (in the version for Alto) [19:00]
Chorale BWV 437 Wir glauben all an einen Gott [4:49]
Sanctus in G major, BWV 240 [2:06]
Agnus Dei (Mvt. 26) from Mass in B minor BWV 232 [3:51]
Aria BWV 200 Bekennen will ich seinen Namen [3:33]
Chorale BWV 382 Mit Fried und Freud [0:53]
Forces: Jakub Burzy&#324;ski, La Tempesta Ensemble
Soloists: Soprano: Julita Miros&#322;awska; Counter-tenor: Jakub Burzy&#324;ski; Tenor: Mariusz Cyciura; Bass-Baritone: Artur Janda
Recording: Arts 477498, 2007, SACD / TT: 58:17
[BCW, Cantata 82 Recordings:]


Next Week's Discussion. Since the aria Cantata 200 was not written for Purification, I will write about the Cantatas composed for the related 16th Sunday after Trinity and their connections with Purification, as well as the transmission of Bach's numerous and various Purification music sources.

Charles Francis wrote (November 24, 2012):
BWV 157 Chorale -- organ performance
[To Ed Myskowski] My performance of the closing chorale can be heard here:


Continue on 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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