Aryeh Oron wrote (January 30, 2002):
The background below is based on several sources (mostly Alec Robertson and W. Murray Young) and something of my own. The English translations are taken from Richard Stokes’ book.
This chorale cantata is longer than average and is based on only one hymn, Paul Gerhardt’s with the same title as the cantata. This hymn has twelve stanzas, which the unknown librettist contracted into nine movements: Stanza one, two, five, ten and twelve are in their original form and the others are paraphrased. Bach used the melody set to the chorale wuth which Cantata BWV 144, composed also for Septuagesima Sunday, ended. Neither the Gospel nor the Epistle for this Septuagesima Sunday is mentioned in the libretto, which is simply a confession of faith in every number.
Mvt. 1 Chorus
Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn
(I have surrendered to God’s heart and mind)
This majestic chorale fantasia impresses the listener with the feeling of complete confidence in God. The 1st verse of the hymn is sung and played tutti, the sopranos carrying the canto fermo of the chorale melody, which permeates all the other parts, vocal and instrumental. It is a magnificent opening number.
Mvt. 2 Chorale and Recitative for Bass
Es kann mir fehlen nimmermehr!
(I can no longer lack anything!)
The 2nd verse of the chorale is sung at intervals by the bass alone, interspersed with sections of his recitative. Continuo only accompanies both parts of this strange and unwieldy number, which, apart from the joy-motif in the chorale lines, seems to have little musical merit. Bach must have puzzled by how he should set it.
Mvt. 3 Aria for Tenor
Seht, seht! wie reißt, wie bricht, wie fällt,
(See, see. How all things snap break, break, fall,)
The aria paraphrases stanzas 3 and 4 of the hymn. This powerful and apocalyptic aria is a graphic picture of the destruction of everything not up held by God. The accompanying strings depict the stormy wrath of God against Satan and his supporters. As in painting, we can see Satan, raging as he sinks back into the abyss, through the verbs ‘wüten’ (to rage), ‘rasen’ (to rave) and ‘krachen’ (to crash), which are given emphatic runs. This is contrasted with God’s conquering strength in the other lines. It is a miniature battle scene, reminiscent of the opening chorus of Cantata BWV 80.
Mvt. 4 Chorale for Alto
Weisheit und Verstand und Verstand
(Wisdom and reason are, moreover
The oboes d’amore accompany her straightforward singing of stanza 5, which presents the thought that God knows all our joys and pains and that we can depend on Him, even though our present state is sad. The unfortunate oboes d’amore have to play for 58 bars with no more than a very occasional quavr rest of relief.
Mvt. 5 Recitative for Tenor
Wir wollen uns nicht länger zagen
(Let us then falter no longer)
This secco narration paraphrases stanzas 6 to 8 of the hymn. This most expressive recitative is the only one in this cantata. The tenor says that we Christians should not be fearful of anguish and pain, since Jesus Himself endured much more of them. We must be patient and trust God. He ends with an arioso on the word ‘Geduld!’ (Patience).
Mvt. 6 Aria for Bass
Das Stürmen von den rauhen Winden
(The raging of the cruel wind)
Continuo only accompanies this paraphrase of stanza 9. The text conjures up the imagery of a windstorm beating over a grain field. Bach’s melody suggests a parallel in the stormy violence of the scene at Golgotha. Just as the wind produces a better crop, so His sacrifice will bear fruit in the soul of a Christian, who also endures the discipline of pain. The bass is given long florid phrases at each repetition of ‘Stürmen’ (raging), and the whirlwind of notes is three times checked at the end of the middle section as the bass sings ‘Küßt seines Sohnes Hand, verehrt die treue Zucht’ (Kiss His Son’s hand, honour tru discipline).
Mvt. 7 Chorale and Recitative for Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano
Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir
(Ah, my God, I come to Thee)
Stanza 10 is sung in interpolation of the soloists, each giving the recitative in the above order. This is a better arrangement than Mvt. 2, because the choir’s lines are not interrupted for so long by the soloists’ following comments. Their theme is submission to God’s will and praise of Him and Hin son. Bach divides each line of the chorale in all voices in such a way that the rhythmic flow is not interrupted. The melody is richly harmonised.
Mvt. 8 Aria for Soprano
Meinem Hirten bleib ich treu
(I shall remain true to my Shepherd)
Bach’s setting for this exquisite aria uses the oboe d’amore and pizzicato strings, which produce a magic touch of pastoral charm. The oboe seems to sing in duet with the soprano throughout, making this the most appealing movement in the cantata.
Mvt. 9 Chorale
Soll ich den auch des Todes Weg
(Through I journey along the path of death)
All voice and instruments combine in this 12th stanza of the hymn. Acceptance of our suffering and trust in the Lord as our Shepherd are the themes of this last verse, thereby summarising the thought in all the previous numbers.