J.S. Bach / Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit ("Actus tragicus"), BWV 106 (Rifkin)




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Published on Jun 11, 2012

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Cantata BWV 106: Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit "Actus tragicus" (1708)

1. Sonatina

2. Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Chorus) 02:14
3. Ach Herr, lehre uns bedenken (Arioso: T) 03:57
4. Bestelle dein Haus (Aria: B) 05:52
5. Es ist der alte Bund (Chorus, Arioso: S) 06:59

6. In deine Hände befehl' ich meinen Geist (Aria: A) 10:27
7. Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein (Arioso & Chorale: A, B) 12:28

8. Glorie, Lob, Ehr' und Herrlichkeit (Chorus) 16:02

Soprano -- Ann Monoyios
Alto (Countertenor) -- Steven Rickards
Tenor -- Edmund Brownless
Bass -- Jan Opalach

Performed by Joshua Rifkin and The Bach Ensemble (1987).

"In their textual and musical forms, both 'Actus tragicus' and 'Aus der Tiefen' [BWV 131] still look essentially to the seventeenth century, remaining untouched by the operatic elements—recitative and da capo arias—injected into German sacred music not long before by the libretto reforms of Erdmann Neumeister. The texts consist exclusively or almost exclusively of biblical matter and chorale verse, the latter always associated in Bach's setting with its customary melody. BWV 131 combines Psalm 130 in its entirety with strophes 2 and 5 of Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's 'Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut'—and arrangement, if we take the note on the autograph at face value, determined by Eilmar, not the composer. BWV 106 has a more complex textual mix:

No. 2
(a) free, incorporating Acts 17, 28
(b) Psalm 90, 12, lightly amplified
(c) Isaiah 38, 1
(d) Ecclesiasticus 14, 18, lightly amplified; Revelation 22, 20
No. 3
(a) Psalm 31, 5
(b) Luke 23, 43; Martin Luther, 'Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin', strophe 1
No. 4
Adam Reusner, 'In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr', strophe 1

The authorship of this assemblage presents something of a mystery. From No. 2c to the concluding hymn stanzas, the text corresponds almost exactly to a sequence of biblical extracts appearing in a prayer-book published by the theologian and hymnist Johann Olearius in 1668. This could mean that the compiler of Bach's libretto took Olearius as his foundation, working outward from there; but perhaps the entire text—or at least its scriptural portions—derives intact from another prayer-book not yet discovered. In any event, it does not seem very likely that Bach himself put together the text; by custom, either the deceased or someone close to him would have chosen the words for his funeral music.

The discursive quality of the texts goes hand in hand with a quicksilver musical language not yet anchored by the thematic differentiation, modulatory schemes and closed forms of the newer Italian styles that Bach would adopt only a few years later. The choral sections in particular show a continued indebtedness to the highly localised procedures of Buxtehude's generation, with tempo, texture and motivic substance often changing at each new clause. Bach's tendency to more embracing architectonic structures does reveal itself in the extended dimensions of his fugal movements and in the symmetry with which he arranges the elements of each cantata: BWV 106 frames the central chorus 'Es ist der alte Bund' with a chorus and two solos before, two solos and a chorus after...Yet even with these stabilising features, the style remains one dependent less on the ineluctable formal logic so characteristic of the mature Bach than on the sheer vividness of invention at any given moment—and the success of [the Actus tragicus] flows directly from the young composer's ability to transform his texts, time and again, into music of gripping audacity." - Joshua Rifkin

Painting: Picture in Remembrance of Johann Emanuel Bremer, Caspar David Friedrich


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