Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170

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Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust
BWV 170
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
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Georg Christian Lehms, author of the text
Occasion Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Performed 28 July 1726 (1726-07-28) – Leipzig
Movements 5
Cantata text Georg Christian Lehms
Vocal alto
Instrumental

Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust (Delightful rest, beloved pleasure of the soul),[1] BWV 170, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the solo cantata for alto in Leipzig for the sixth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 28 July 1726.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the sixth Sunday after Trinity. The prescribed readings for the Sunday are from the Epistle to the Romans, "By Christ's death we are dead for sin" (Romans 6:3–11), and from the Gospel of Matthew a passage from the Sermon on the Mount about better justice than the justice of merely observing laws and rules (Matthew 5:20–26). The text of the cantata is drawn from Georg Christian Lehms' Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opfer (1711) and speaks of the desire to lead a virtuous life and so enter heaven and avoid hell.[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 28 July 1726. Its brevity, compared to the cantatas in two parts written before and after, such as Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39, can be explained assuming that in the same service also a cantata Ich will meinen Geist in euch geben by Johann Ludwig Bach was performed.[2]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata is one of three Bach cantatas written in Leipzig in the summer and fall of 1726, in which an alto soloist is the only singer, the others being Geist und Seele wird verwirret, BWV 35, and Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169. It seems likely that Bach had a capable alto singer at his disposal during this period. The cantata is scored for a small orchestra of oboe d'amore, two violins, viola, organ solo and basso continuo.[2]

The work is in five movements, three arias separated by two recitatives:

  1. Aria: Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust
  2. Recitative: Die Welt, das Sündenhaus
  3. Aria: Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen
  4. Recitative: Wer sollte sich demnach wohl hier zu leben wünschen
  5. Aria: Mir ekelt mehr zu leben

A typical performance of the cantata will last around twenty minutes.

Music[edit]

The first aria is a da capo aria in a pastoral rhythm.[2] Musicologist Julian Mincham notes: "The first stanza is enigmatically poetic and its essence is an evocation of that peace and inner contentment".[3]

The second aria is set without continuo, symbolic of the lack of direction in the lives of those who ignore the word of God, as spoken about in the text. The organ plays two parts, the violins and viola in unison a third.[2]

The second recitative is accompanied by the strings and continuo. The strings play mostly long chords but illustrate the words "bei Gott zu leben, der selbst die Liebe heißt" (to live with God, whose name is love)[1] by more lively movement.[2]

The final aria is a triumphant song of turning away from the world and desiring heaven. The words "Mir ekelt" (I feel revulsion)[1] are expressed by an unusual tritone opening the melody. The voice is ornamented by figuration in the organ, which Bach set for flauto traverso for a performance in his last years.[2]

Recordings[edit]

Notable singers in the alto range recorded the cantata, male (as in Bach's time, also called altus or countertenor) and female (contralto or mezzo-soprano), including Alfred Deller, Maureen Forrester, René Jacobs, Julia Hamari, Paul Esswood, Jochen Kowalski, Nathalie Stutzmann, Andreas Scholl, Michael Chance, Guillemette Laurens, Magdalena Kožená and Robin Blaze.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 170 – "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 363–366. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 19 BWV 170 Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust / Rest contented, beloved Soul.". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 

Sources[edit]