Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42
|Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats
|Church cantata by J. S. Bach|
The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio, 1601–02
|Occasion||Sunday after Easter|
|Performed||8 April 1725Leipzig:|
|Bible text||John 20:19–31|
|Vocal||SATB solo and choir|
Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (On the evening, however, of the same Sabbath), BWV 42,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it for the first Sunday after Easter in Leipzig and first performed it on 8 April 1725.
History and words
Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the first Sunday after Easter, called Quasimodogeniti. He composed it in his second annual cycle, which consisted of chorale cantatas since the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724. Bach ended the sequence on Palm Sunday of 1725, this cantata is not a chorale cantata and the only cantata in the second cycle to begin with an extended sinfonia.
The prescribed readings for the 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 included verse 19 from the Gospel to begin the cantata, later as movement 4 the first stanza of the chorale "Verzage nicht, o Häuflein klein" (1632) by Jakob Fabricius (theologian), which had been attributed also to Johann Michael Altenburg, and as the closing chorale two stanzas which had appeared added to Martin Luther's "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort": "Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich", Luther's German version of Da pacem Domine (Give peace, Lord, 1531), and "Gib unsern Fürsten und all'r Obrigkeit" (Give our rulers and all lawgivers), a stanza by Johann Walter paraphrasing 1 Timothy 2:2 (1566), concluded with a final amen. Werner Neumann suggested that Bach himself may have been the anonymous poet, while Charles Sanford Terry proposed Christian Weiss. Bach scholar Alfred Dürr supposed that it is the same author who wrote Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, BWV 6, first performed six days earlier on Easter Monday of 1725.
After the quote from the Gospel of John, the poet paraphrases, in movement 3, words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 18:20, "Wo zwei oder drei versammelt sind in meinem Namen, da bin ich mitten unter ihnen" (For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them).
Bach first performed the cantata on 8 April 1725, and again in Leipzig at least twice, on 1 April 1731 and either on 1 April 1742 or on 7 April 1743.
Scoring and structure
The cantata in seven movements is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, a four-part choir only in the closing chorale, two oboes, bassoon, two violins, viola and basso continuo. The reason for the choir appearing only in the closing chorale may have been that the Thomanerchor had been in high demand during the Holy Week and Easter, performing Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, the St John Passion and Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4, among others.
- Recitative (tenor): Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats
- Aria (alto): Wo zwei und drei versammlet sind
- Aria (soprano and tenor): Verzage nicht, o Häuflein klein
- Recitative (bass): Man kann hiervon ein schön Exempel sehen
- Aria (bass): Jesus ist ein Schild der Seinen
- Chorale: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich
Possibly Bach took the opening sinfonia from earlier music. According to John Eliot Gardiner, this movement and the first aria are both taken from Bach's lost congratulatory cantata Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück, BWV 66a, celebrating the 24th birthday of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen on 10 December 1718. Dürr believed that it is a movement from a concerto. It does not highlight a particular solo instrument (although Julian Mincham sees a close resemblance to concerti which do, such as the opening movements of Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042, and the keyboard concerto, BWV 1053). Rather it is a type of concerto grosso (or "concerto a due cori", concerto for two choirs), the strings interacting with a concertino of the woodwinds, oboes and bassoon. The two groups first introduce their own lively themes, which are distinct but related to each other. Then they also exchange their themes and play together. The middle section begins with a surprising new motif for oboe and bassoon, which Bach himself marked "cantabile".
The Bible quote is sung in recitative by the tenor as the Evangelist, accompanied by the continuo in repeated fast notes, possibly illustrating the anxious heart beat of the disciples, when Jesus appears, "On the evening, however, of the same Sabbath, when the disciples had gathered and the door was locked out of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and walked among them".
In movement 3, an aria marked adagio, the repetition is kept in the bassoon, but the strings hold long chords and the oboes play extended melodic lines. According to Dürr, it may have been another movement from the same concerto that movement 1 relies on.
Bach composed the chorale text of movement 4, "Do not despair, o little flock", as a duet, accompanied only by the continuo including bassoon. Fragments of the usual chorale theme, "Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn", can be detected occasionally. Terry interprets that the bassoon obbligato was intended to accompany a chorale melody which "never actually sounded", conveying the "hiddenness" of the church in the world.
The bass prepares in a recitative, ending as an arioso, the last aria, which is accompanied by the divided violins and the continuo. The theme is again a contrast between the "Unruhe der Welt" (restlessness of "the world") and "Friede bei Jesus" (peace with Jesus). While the instruments play in wild motion, the bass sings a calm expressive melody, only accenting the word "Verfolgung" (persecution) by faster motion in long melismas. According to Mincham, this aria might go back to a different movement from the same concerto as the sinfonia.
The chorale theme of Luther's chorale was published by Martin Luther in the Kirchē gesenge, mit vil schönen Psalmen unnd Melodey (edited by Johann Walter), published in Nürnberg in 1531), and then in the Geistliche Lieder by Joseph Klug (Wittenberg, 1535). The melody of the additional stanza (Gieb unsern Fürsten) was first published in Das christlich Kinderlied D. Martini Lutheri in Wittenberg, 1566. Bach set it for four parts.
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- "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.
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- Gardiner, John Eliot (2007). "Cantatas for the First Sunday after Easter (Quasimodogeniti) / Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Kirche, Arnstadt" (PDF). bach-cantatas.com. p. 5. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
- Bacon, Leonard Woolsey; Allen, Nathan H., eds. (1884). Dr. Martin Luther's Deutsche Geistliche Lieder. The Hymns of Martin Luther set to their original Melodies with an English version. Hodder and Stoughton.
- Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (concerto da chiesa) BWV 42; BC A 63 / Sacred cantata Leipzig University
- Cantata BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats: history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, Bach Cantatas website
- Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats: history, scoring, Bach website (in German)
- BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats: English translation, University of Vermont
- BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats: text, scoring, University of Alberta
- Brian Robins: Cantata No. 42, "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths," BWV 42 Allmusic