Herr, wie du willt, so schick’s mit mir

BWV 073 // For the Third Sunday after Epiphany

(Lord, as thou wilt, so deal with me) for soprano, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, oboe I+II, horn, bassoon, strings and continuo

Cantata BWV 73 “Herr, wie du willt, so schick’s mit mir” (Lord, as thou willt, so deal with me) belongs to Bach’s first Leipzig cantata cycle and was first performed in the Nikolaikirche on 23 January 1724. With its brief but highly expressive forms, it is reminiscent of a finely drawn miniature.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 73

Video

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Workshop
Reflective lecture

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
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Audio

The sound recording of this work is available on several streaming and download platforms.

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Performers

Soloists

Soprano
Susanne Seitter

Tenor
Makoto Sakurada

Bass
Markus Volpert

Choir

Soprano
Guro Hjemli, Noëmi Tran Rediger, Noëmi Sohn

Alto
Jan Börner, Antonia Frey, Olivia Heiniger, Lea Scherer, Katharina Jud

Tenor
Marcel Fässler, Clemens Flämig, Manuel Gerber

Bass
Fabrice Hayoz, Valentin Parli, Chasper Mani

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Renate Steinmann, Fanny Tschanz

Viola
Susanna Hefti

Violoncello
Martin Zeller

Violone
Iris Finkbeiner

Oboe
Martin Stadler, Ingo Müller

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Horn
Olivier Picon

Organ
Thomas Leininger

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture

Speaker

Angelika Overath

Recording & editing

Recording date
01/21/2011

Recording location
Trogen

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Director
Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Switzerland

Producer
J.S. Bach Foundation of St. Gallen, Switzerland

About the work

Librettist

Text
Poet unknown

Text No. 1
Interpolated chorale lines by Kaspar Bienemann, 1582

Text No. 5
Ludwig Helmbold, 1563

First performance
Third Sunday after Trinity,
23 January 1724

In-depth analysis

The introductory chorale commences with a consistently repeated four-note sequence in the instrumental parts, an aphoristic leitmotif that reflects the words “Lord, as thou willt”. Indeed, this religious dictate seems to be literally hammered in by the staccato style of the orchestral material as well as the horn part (which was replaced in a later version by an “Organo obbligato”). The exacting character of the movement is counterbalanced solely by the two oboes whose soothing sequences in thirds alleviate somewhat the rigidity of the divine command. The following vocal section applies a troping technique. Here, each section of choir text sung to the melody of “Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt” by Kaspar Bienemann (1582) is superseded by a vocal solo that applies the chorale’s “objective” message to the timeless struggles and conflicts of earthly existence. In these tenor, bass and soprano passages, the gradual transformation from doubt in God’s promise and the purpose of human suffering to a pronouncement of trust and hope is achieved with particular textual and musical skill.
In the following aria trio “Ah, pour thou yet thy joyful spirit”, the tenor, supported by a simple continuo accompaniment, continues the elegantly flowing melody introduced by the oboe. Despite its rich coloraturas, the restrained gesture of the music, the sigh of the middle section and the somewhat wistful E-flat major tonality suggest that the true heart of the matter is not earthly pleasure, but the serenity found in acceptance of humankind’s inevitable lot.
Commencing with an abrupt modulation and exclamatory “Ah!”, the following bass recitative captures the faltering nature of the human will, interpreted musically by inverting the seventh between the continuo and voice on the word “perverse”. With its seamless transition to the following aria, the recitative becomes part of a larger, unique musical structure. This freely contrapuntal movement commences with no less than 16 repetitions of the dictum “Lord, as thou willt”, offering a poignant and emotional interpretation of the Christian readiness to die and of victory over death. With its sighs and dynamic contrasts, this section is extraordinarily rich in affect. Indeed, in the bass cantilena, the soloist – accompanied by pizzicato strings – seems almost to be singing his own requiem. With this devout swan song, Bach creates a musical portrayal of surrender to God’s will that has doubtlessly comforted many a listener – both in Bach’s day and ours. In its simplicity and restraint, the closing chorale “This is the Father’s purpose” offers a moment of exquisite tenderness and consolation.

Libretto

1. [Choral und Rezitativ] (Tenor, Bass, Sopran)

Herr, wie du willt, so schick’s mit mir
im Leben und im Sterben!
(tenor)
Ach! aber ach! wieviel
lässt mich dein Wille leiden!
Mein Leben ist des Unglücks Ziel,
da Jammer und Verdruss
mich lebend foltern muss,
und kaum will meine Not im Sterben von mir scheiden.
Allein zu dir steht mein Begier,
Herr, lass mich nicht verderben!
(bass)
Du bist mein Helfer, Trost und Hort,
so der Betrübten Tränen zählet,
und ihre Zuversicht,
das schwache Rohr, nicht gar zerbricht;
und weil du mich erwählet,
so sprich ein Trost- und Freudenwort.
Erhalt mich nur in deiner Huld,
sonst wie du willt, gib mir Geduld,
denn dein Will ist der beste.

(sopran)
Dein Wille zwar ist ein versiegelt Buch,
da Menschenweisheit nichts vernimmt.
Der Segen scheint uns oft ein Fluch,
die Züchtigung ergrimmte Strafe,
die Ruhe, so du in dem Todesschlafe
uns einst bestimmt,
ein Eingang zu der Hölle.
Doch macht dein Geist uns dieses Irrtums frei,
und zeigt, dass uns dein Wille heilsam sei.
Herr, wie du willt!

2. Arie (Tenor)

Ach senke doch den Geist der Freuden dem Herzen ein.
Es will oft bei mir geistlich Kranken
die Freudigkeit und Hoffnung wanken
und zaghaft sein.

3. Rezitativ (Bass)

Ach, unser Wille bleibt verkehrt,
bald trotzig, bald verzagt,
des Sterbens will er nie gedenken!
Alkein ein Christ, in Gottes Geist gelehrt,
lernt sich in Gottes Willen senken,
und sagt:

4. Arie (Bass)

Herr, so du willt,
so presst, ihr Todesschmerzen,
die Seufzer aus dem Herzen,
wenn mein Gebet nur vor dir gilt.
Herr, so du willt,
so lege meine Glieder
in Staub und Asche nieder,
dies höchst verderbte Sündenbild.
Herr, so du willt,
so schlagt, ihr Leichenglokken,
ich folge unerschrokken,
mein Jammer ist nunmehr gestillt.
Herr, so du willt.

5. Choral

Das ist des Vaters Wille,
der uns erschaffen hat;
sein Sohn hat Guts die Fülle
erworben und Genad;
auch Gott der Heilge Geist,
im Glauben uns regieret,
zum Reich des Himmels führet:
ihm sei Lob, Ehr und Preis.

Bibliographical references

All libretti sourced from Neue Bach-Ausgabe. Johann Sebastian Bach. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, published by the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Series I (Cantatas), vol. 1–41, Kassel and Leipzig, 1954–2000.
All in-depth analyses by Anselm Hartinger (English translations/editing by Alice Noger-Gradon/Mary Carozza) based on the following sources:  Hans-Joachim Schulze, Die Bach-Kantaten. Einführungen zu sämtlichen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs, Leipzig, 2nd edition, 2007; Alfred Dürr, Johann Sebastian Bach. Die Kantaten, Kassel, 9th edition, 2009, and Martin Petzoldt, Bach-Kommentar. Die geistlichen Kantaten, Stuttgart, vol. 1, 2nd edition, 2005 and vol. 2, 1st edition, 2007.

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