Cantata BWV 42: Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (8 April 1725)
1. Sinfonia 2. Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (Recitative: T) 06:43 3. Wo zwei und drei versammlet sind (Aria: A) 07:16 4. Verzage nicht, o Häuflein klein (Duet: S, T) 17:28 5. Man kann hiervon ein schön Exempel sehen (Recitative: B) 19:47 6. Jesus ist ein Schild der Seinen (Aria: B) 20:33 7. Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (Chorale) 23:56
Soloists: Soprano: Barbara Schlick Alto: Gérard Lesne Tenor: Howard Crook Bass: Peter Kooy
Performed by La Chapelle Royale & Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Recorded by Harmonia Mundi France in 1990.
“The unidentified librettist of the cantata, ‘Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats’, based his text on the opening lines of the Gospel reading for the First Sunday after Easter, taken from St. John. Although a substantial work in terms of length, Bach allotted only one of the seven movements to the choir; instead of the opening chorale fantasia, which Bach favoured in his Leipzig cantatas, this one begins with an unusually extended Sinfonia. Performed for the first time on the Sunday after Easter, in 1725, Alfred Dürr suggests that Bach deliberately omitted a full-scale choral movement in order to give his choir a well-earned rest after their exacting duties over the Passiontide and Easter festivals.
“The ‘SInfonia’, a full-scale orchestral movement, probably from a lost concerto, is scored for a concertino group of two oboes and a bassoon, with strings, organ, and continuo. Much of the two-part violin writing is in unison but, as the movement unfolds, it plays a role of greater intricacy with the woodwind concertino. The movement is cast in ‘da capo’ form with a central section, marked ‘cantabile’. Here the beautifully shaped melodies of the two oboe parts and the tenderly lyrical character of the section as a whole have led some writers to suggest that Bach perhaps intended an evocation of eventide and the walk to Emmaus, prevailing themes running through the cantata. The first vocal number is a tenor recitative accompanied by a continuo part of repeated semi-quavers. The words, here, are those of the title: ‘Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, came Jesus and stood in the midst.’ The following ‘da capo’ aria for alto with oboes, bassoon, and strings is concerto-like both in scale and structure and perhaps belonged to the same work from which Bach borrowed the opening ‘Sinfonia’. This is the heart of the work and is cast in two distinct sections: first, an Adagio, the more extended of the two, then a brief contrasting section in 12/8 and marked ‘Un poco andante’, which returns to the opening.
“The third movement is a duet for soprano and tenor accompanied by bassoon, cello, and continuo. The words are based on a verse from a seventeenth century Lied by Jakob Fabricius (c. 1635). Bach makes fleeting and subtle references to its associated melody both in the continuo and the tenor parts. The following recitative and aria are for the bass soloist. In the closing bars of the recitative the continuo depicts the impotent rage of Christ’s antagonists. In the lively and invigorating A major aria scored for two violins, bassoon, organ, and continuo, three aspects of Christian belief are contrasted: the impotence of Christ’s enemies is depicted in the restless violin figurations, while the vocal line expresses the tranquil reassurance imparted by faith in Christ. Lastly, the powerful continuo symbolizes persistence and strength. The cantata ends with a four-part chorale accompanied by the full orchestra. The first verse contains Luther’s German translation of the Latin Antiphon ‘Da pacem, Domine’, with its anonymous melody. The second verse, by Johann Walther, is a prayer for peace and good government traditionally linked with Luther’s translation; its melody too, is an anonymous one dating from the 16th century. Bach had used these verses just a few weeks earlier in his Sexagesima cantata, BWV 126, but set them differently on each occasion.” – Nicholas Anderson
Painting: The Man Who Passed By (Interior), Georges Le Brun