Aryeh Oron wrote (March 15, 2002):
BWV 66 – Background [Alec Robertson]
The background below is taken completely from Alec Robertson’s book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’. The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.
Mvt. 1: Chorus (S, A, T, B)
Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen
(Rejoice, you hearts)
Tromba, Oboe I/II, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
The text of the first section of the chorus is a general rejoicing in the glorious event of the Resurrection. It is preceded by a brilliant orchestral prelude in which one joyous little figure leaps out of the score and is prominent in the accompaniment to the chorus and, of course, in the ritornellos. Altos and tenors give out the opening line, then altos and basses and the latter again after the first ritornello. This makes for effective entries of the full chorus but does rather reduce the tension. After the second ritornello the second section, of some length, is confined to a duet for altos and basses in which the words are ‘Ihr könnet verjagen / Das Trauren, das Fürchten, das ängstliche Zagen’ (You can chase away / the mourning, the fear, the anxious trembling). These words, set to the chromatic descending phrases, seem to contradict the sentiment of the opening words.
Mvt. 2: Recitative for Bass
Es bricht das Grab und damit unsre Not,
(The grave is broken and with it our distress)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Mvt. 3: Aria for Bass
Lasset dem Höchsten ein Danklied erschallen
(Let a song of thanks resound to the highest)
Oboe I/II, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
A fine aria in which Bach dwells on ‘ewige’ (everlasting) in its first section. The second section begins with the words ‘Jesus erscheinet, uns Friede zu geben, / Jesus berufet uns, mit ihm zu leben’ (Jesus appears to give us peace, / Jesus calls us to live with him).
Mvt. 4: Recitative (Dialogue) & Arioso (Duetto) for Alto (Fear) & Tenor (Hope)
Bei Jesu Leben freudig sein
(To be joyful in Jesus' life)
The first clear allusion to the Gospel account of Jesus appearing to the two disciples as they walked to Emmaus is clumsily handled in the libretto. Both men were sick at heart, because the prophet they had trusted in as ‘mighty in deed and word’ had been put to death and had not risen on the third day after. Hope apparently represents one of these men and Fear the other. There is an expressive moment in Hope’s recitative where he quotes the Saviour’s words ‘Mein Grab und Sterben bringt euch Leben, / Mein Auferstehn ist euer Trost.’ ("My grave and dying bring you life, / my resurrection is your comfort."). A duet follows in which Hope sings ‘Mein Auge sieht den Heiland auferweckt’ (My eye sees the saviour arisen) and Fear ‘Kein Auge sieht den Heiland auferweckt’ (No eye sees the saviour arisen). Both sing the same music in canon. Bach made the same mistake in the Fear-Hope duet in Cantata BWV 60 ‘O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort’.
Mvt. 5: Aria (Duetto) for Alto (Fear) & Tenor (Hope)
Ich furchte zwar des Grabes Finsternissen
(I fear indeed the grave's darkness)
Violino solo, Continuo
Once again the singers have the same text – except that one sings ‘zwar’ (indeed), the other ‘nicht’ (not) and later ‘klagete’ (mourned) and ‘hoffete’ (hoped). In the middle section Fear is at last converted and both sing ‘Nun ist mein Herze voller Trost, / Und wenn sich auch ein Feind erbost, / Will ich in Gott zu siegen wissen.’ (Now my heart is full of comfort, / and if an enemy is infuriated / I shall know how to conquer in God.). This is a long duet but the music is continuously interesting and exultant to that one can forget Fear’s timorousness.
Mvt. 6: Chorale
Alleluja! Des soll'n wir alle froh sein,
(Alleluia! For this we should all be joyful)
Continuo; No instrumentation stated
This is the third verse of ‘Christ ist erstanden’ (1529), a 12th-century German folksong derived from the Easter Sequence ‘Victimae paschali laudes’.