Aryeh Oron wrote (April 13, 2002):
BWV 210 – Background [Alfred Dürr]
The background below is taken from the liner notes to the MHS LP (printed probably in the early 1970’s), in which the cantata is conducted by Helmuth Winschermann. These notes were written by Alfred Dürr and translated to English by Virginia R. Woods.
“O Lovely Day, Long-awaited Time”
There is a great amount of conjecture concerning the origin of this cantata. Certainly, it may be considered as one of Bach’s late works. Judging by the time of their origin between 1738 and 1741, the parts were written by Johann Friedrich Agricola, a pupil of Bach's at Leipzig. Further proof is submitted by the text itself, The work is a wedding cantata, performed in honour of a very influential man, who apparently loved music very much. The verses, "Nothing in all of wisdom’s treasures can so delight you as the art of sweet tones…" do not necessarily indicate a scholar any more than do the words, "a devout couple will… to pray an inspiring Abba Father…" need be attributed to a theologian. Yet these special fields of interest alluded to evidently interested that patron, who, it is said, placed the music first.
Worthy of note may even be that in the realm of vocal works a collection of soprano and continuo parts are preserved; it represents today the utmost in beautiful writing in manuscript form, and was undoubtedly meant to be presented to the bride and groom.
In his libretto the unknown poet mediates on the changing relationship between Music and Love: the "inspiring" songs. Fill the breast with rapture, and yet they do not harmonize with Love because they lead to "vanity.” However, neither are the "weak tones" the right remedy for a happy marriage. First of all, the lamenting songs of the flutes must cease because their sad song does not fit the festive occasion. Now the poet asks whether the music should be entirely done away with and answers with a "no": "Love may permit happy strings even before her throne" as long as there is still a patron of music, who should be honoured today. The text ends with praise to the bride and groom and to the patron of music.
With the setting of this text to music, Bach has not only created an artistic and extremely mature work, but also a technical and very exacting piece of music. Grace notes and trills as well as rapid passages up to a high C-sharp (two lines above the staff) is required of the singer; considerable ability is also demanded of the instrumentalists, particularly the flutes. Evidently Bach was convinced that the bridegroom as a connoisseur of music appreciated this.
Bach's title, "Cantata," states already that this work deals with a cantata a voce solo (cantata for solo voice) because he usually called his vocal works with more than one part a sacred "Concerto," a "Serenata," or a "Drama per Musica" instead of cantata. By limiting the work to one voice, the composition naturally demands a richly contrasting treatment in the individual movements to prevent monotony. Through his description of varied characters, the poet is a valuable help in the writing of the music.
An introductory accompaniment is followed by a dance-like aria with strings, supported by a ritornello of the oboe d'amore, which shows plainly the changing feelings of the "enraptured breast," the excited and the calm moods.
The second aria of the cantata presents a contrasting picture. The oboe d'amore and the solo violin are played with inspiring feeling, which is characterized by the small mixolydian leading tone, a favourite musical device, that also appears in the beginning recitative on the words, "O Lovely Day."
The flute finally appears as the solo instrument in the third aria. Since its range is restricted by the text, the flute melody is stopped by the voice after a few notes with the words, "Schweigt, ihr Flöten" (Be silent, you flutes). The beginning ritornello also appears again in an interlude within the vocal part. This device contrasts with the other and creates an animated play between the voice and the broad, expanding figures in the flutes.
The decrescendo in the score of the first three arias reflects the rejection of such sounds as incompatible with the wedding music, but with an apostrophe to the bridegroom, the patron of music, the full voice enters in its own right. The fourth aria, "Grosser Gönner, dein Vergnügen muss durch unsern Klang besiegen" (Great Protector, our sound must also win your pleasure) is given to the oboe d'amore obbligato with full parts in both violins. The unmistakable dance-Iike (minuet) character is aided by echo effects in the instrumental ritornello.
Until now the recitatives, connecting the arias were written in the secco stil, so Bach creates a complement to the beginning recitative with the accompaniment and its characteristic motive in the final movement. The accompaniment of the vocal part is supplied by flutes and oboe d'amore in sixteenth notes with chords in the strings.
The last aria finally unites all of the instruments in festival congratulations to the bride and groom. This movement also reaffirms the purpose of the work, "for the connoisseur." Bach is not satisfied, as otherwise customary, to close with a popular dance movement, but ends, in spite of the light melodic quality, in an almost hymn-Iike manner.