Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ, BWV 67
|Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ|
|Church cantata by J. S. Bach|
|Occasion||Sunday after Easter|
|Performed||16 April 1724Leipzig –|
|Bible text||2 Timothy 2:8|
Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ (Keep Jesus Christ in mind), BWV 67, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for Quasimodogeniti, the first Sunday after Easter, and first performed it on 16 April 1724.
History and text
Bach composed the cantata in his first year in Leipzig, when he first performed his St John Passion, for the First Sunday after Easter, called Quasimodogeniti. The prescribed readings for that Sunday were from the First Epistle of John, "our faith is the victory" (1 John 5:4–10), and from the Gospel of John, the appearance of Jesus to the Disciples, first without then with Thomas, in Jerusalem (John 20:19–31). The unknown poet begins with a verse from the Second Epistle to Timothy, "Remember that Jesus Christ ... was raised from the dead" (2 Timothy 2:8). The poet sees Thomas as similar to the doubtful Christian in general whose heart is not at peace. The center of the cantata is the Easter hymn "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" (The glorious day has appeared) by Nikolaus Herman (1560), praising the day of the resurrection. In contrast, movement 5 recalls the danger by the enemies, until in movement 6 Jesus appears as to his disciples in Jerusalem, finally bringing peace. The line "Friede sei mit euch" (Peace be with you) is repeated four times, framing three stanzas of a poem. The closing chorale is the first stanza of "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" (Thou Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ) by Jakob Ebert (1601).
Structure and scoring
The cantata in seven movements is scored for three vocal soloists (alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, corno da tirarsi, a slide horn that Bach scored for a short period, flauto traverso, two oboes d'amore, two violins, viola and basso continuo.
- Chorus: Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ
- Aria (tenor): Mein Jesus ist erstanden
- Recitative (alto): Mein Jesu, heißest du des Todes Gift
- Chorale: Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag
- Recitative (alto): Doch scheinet fast
- Aria (bass): Friede sei mit euch
- Chorale: Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
The opening chorus reflects the contrast of hope and resurrection versus simultaneous remembrance and doubt, which is present throughout the cantata. The chorus is structured in symmetry in seven sections, beginning with an instrumental sinfonia of all instruments, the horn introducing a theme representing remembrance in a melody which resembles the choral tune of "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig (de)" which Bach would later use as a cantus firmus in the opening movement of his St Matthew Passion. Bach thus alludes to the idea that Jesus suffered innocently for the "sins of the world" before he rose again. In the second section, this melody is sung by the sopranos, while the lower voices stress the word "Halt" (hold) by several homophonic chords. In the third section, the sopranos repeat the melody in a fugue, while the altos simultaneously sing a countersubject that rises in fast movement for more than an octave, illustrating the resurrection. The fourth section is a reprise of the sinfonia with the voices added, then a variation of sections 2 to 4 follows as 5 to 7.
The tenor aria Mein Jesus ist erstanden (My Jesus is arisen) is accompanied by an obbligato oboe d'amore. The theme is presented in the opening by the strings and later picked up by the voice, illustrating the word "auferstanden" by an upward run. The Easter chorale "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag"  marks the center of the composition. In symmetry, it is framed by two alto recitatives, the second a reprise of the first. The idea of a solo singer alternating with a chorus is extended in the following movement, the bass aria with chorus Friede sei mit euch (Peace be with you). A string introduction depicts in agitated forte passages in 4/4 time the attack of the enemies. John Eliot Gardiner describes it as "a dramatic scena in which the strings work up a storm to illustrate the raging of the soul's enemies". In sharp contrast the bass as the vox Christi (voice of Christ) sings the greeting of Jesus from verse 19 of the Gospel, "Peace be with you", three times, accompanied by woodwinds in dotted rhythm in 3/4 time, marked piano. Musicologist Julian Mincham describes the music as serene, a "gentle, rocking, almost cradle-like rhythm creating a perfect atmosphere of peaceful contemplation". The upper voices of the choir (without basses) answer to the music of the introduction, seeing Jesus as help in the battle ("hilft uns kämpfen und die Wut der Feinde dämpfen"). The greeting and answering is repeated two more times in two stanzas of the poem, reflecting the strengthening of the weary in spirit and body ("erquicket in uns Müden Geist und Leib zugleich"), and finally overcoming death ("durch den Tod hindurch zu dringen"). The following fourth appearance of "Peace be with you" is accompanied by both woodwinds and strings, and peace is finally achieved. Klaus Hofmann describes the movement as an "operatic scene" and continues "Bach resorts to unconventional means; he shows himself as a musical dramatist and, in the process, stresses the element of contrast: he comments upon the words of the faithful with agitated, tumultuous string figures, whilst Jesus' peace greeting sounds calmly and majestically, embedded in pastoral wind sonorities." Bach adapted this movement as the Gloria of his Missa in A major, BWV 234. The closing chorale "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" is a four-part setting.
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- Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 50 BWV 67 Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
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- "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ". bach-cantatas.com. 2006. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- Cantatas, BWV 61–70: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Cantata BWV 67 Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
- Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ history, scoring, Bach website (German)
- BWV 67 Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ English translation, University of Vermont
- BWV 67 Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ text, scoring, University of Alberta