Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, BWV 6
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden (Stay with us, for evening falls), BWV 6, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the church cantata in Leipzig for Easter Monday and first performed it on 2 April 1725.
History and text
Bach composed the cantata in his second year in Leipzig for Easter Monday. The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the Acts of the Apostles, the sermon of Peter (Acts 10:34–43), and from the Gospel of Luke, the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35). An anonymous poet included as the first movement verse 29 from the gospel and as movement 3 two hymn stanzas, Philipp Melanchthon's German version "Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ" of "Vespera iam venit", of similar content as movement 1, and its second stanza, added by Nikolaus Selnecker. The poet included as the closing chorale the second stanza of Martin Luther's hymn "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort". The work focuses on the theme of contrast between light and dark. The librettist is unknown, and the text is "not especially notable or poetic".
Bach first performed the cantata on 2 April 1725.
Scoring and structure
This cantata has six movements:
- Chorus: Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden
- Aria (alto): Hochgelobter Gottessohn
- Chorale (soprano): Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ
- Recitative (bass): Es hat die Dunkelheit an vielen Orten
- Aria (tenor): Jesu, laß uns auf dich sehen
- Chorale: Beweis dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ
The work opens with a large-scale chorus of a freely polyphonic tone poem, reminiscent of a slow sarabande or of the closing of the St John Passion. The movement is unusual among Bach's works in that despite being a large choral movement, it is neither a chorale nor a fantasia. Julian Mincham suggests that this may indicate a sense of creative burnout on Bach's part, given his demanding compositional schedule. The vocal lines in this movement descend on "denn es will Abend werden" (for evening is nigh) "as if the gloom of night were weighing upon them". The middle section is a fugal texture in C minor and common time, dominated by imitative counterpoint.
The third movement is a setting of a chorale in B-flat major. The piccolo cello part was likely a later addition; the part is high and quite technically difficult. This movement was later adapted as one of the Schübler Chorales, BWV 649.
The final three movements are all in G minor: a recitative for bass, an aria for tenor, and a closing chorale. The recitative employs a "threatening chromatic bass line" to remind listeners of "the gravity of the situation". The aria is characterized by a persistent walking rhythm, somewhat mitigated by the flowing triplets in the violin line. Mincham suggests that the closing chorale is "quarried very little for musical building blocks", ending the work on a sombre tone.
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- BWV 6 Libretto & Notes, Choral Arts Foundation
- Mincham, Julian. Chapter 43 BWV 6, jsbachcantatas.
- BWV 6 Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, University of Alberta
- Schweitzer, Albert (1905). J. S. Bach: Le Musicien-Poète, vol 2, pp. 338–339.
- Fritz Werner & Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn & Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra, Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
- Cantatas, BWV 1–10: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Cantata BWV 6 Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden: history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, Bach Cantatas Website
- BWV 6 – "Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden": English translation, discussion, Emmanuel Music
- Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden: history, scoring, Bach website (German)
- BWV 6 Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden: English translation, University of Vermont