Christus, der ist mein Leben

BWV 095 // For the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Lord Christ, he is my being) for soprano, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, corno, oboe d’amore I+II, strings and basso continuo

First performed on 12 September 1723, the cantata “Lord Christ, he is my being” can be viewed as an experimental predecessor to Bach’s chorale cantata cycle of 1724/25. In contrast to the cantatas of the cycle, each of which interprets one single hymn, the libretto of BWV 95 incorporates no fewer than four different chorales; this lends the work a funereal quality, despite its relationship to the gospel for the 16th Sunday after Trinity, in which Jesus resurrects a widow’s son at Nain. And although the cantata is quite modest in terms of orchestration and scope, it brims with delightful ideas and innovative solutions.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 95

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
Julia Sophie Wagner

Tenor
Charles Daniels

Bass
Matthias Helm

Choir

Soprano
Susanne Seitter, Olivia Fündeling, Guro Hjemli, Alexa Vogel, Noëmi Tran Rediger, Simone Schwark

Alto
Simon Savoy, Antonia Frey, Alexandra Rawohl, Misa Lamdark, Damaris Rickhaus

Tenor
Sören Richter, Walter Siegel, Nicolas Savoy, Manuel Gerber, Clemens Flämig

Bass
Fabrice Hayoz, Philippe Rayot, Will Wood, Valentin Parli, Oliver Rudin

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Plamena Nikitassova, Dorothee Mühleisen, Sonoko Asabuki, Christine Baumann, Elisabeth Kohler, Eva Saladin

Viola
Martina Bischof, Sarah Krone, Germán EcheverrI

Violoncello
Maya Amrein, Hristo Kouzmanov

Violone
Iris Finkbeiner

Oboe d’amore
Katharina Arfken, Dominik Melicharek

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Corno
Olivier Picon

Lute
Maria Ferré

Organ
Nicola Cumer

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture

Speaker

Gian Domenico Borasio

Recording & editing

Recording date
18/09/2015

Recording location
Trogen AR (Schweiz) // Evangelische Kirche

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 No. 1
Poet unknown, Jena 1609 (Melchior Vulpius?),
Poet unknown, Martin Luther 1524

Text No. 2, 4, 5, 6
Poet unknown

Text No. 3
Valerius Herberger, 1614

Text No. 3
Nikolaus Herman, 1560

First performance
Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity,
5 November 1724

In-depth analysis

The introductory chorus opens with a lively, syncopated ritornello, which – for a hymn of death – is set in a remarkably upbeat triple metre and features a lively dialogue between the strings and woodwinds on the one hand, and block-like choral interjections on the other. The tenor solo “With gladness, Yea, with joyful heart” then comes as a surprise, presenting an alternating series of arioso passages and recitative statements before cumulating in the second chorale “With peace and joy do I depart”. Through the energetic, driving bass line and signal-like motive based on the opening line of the chorale, this tutti section has a more decisive air than the first chorale of the movement, although both chorale settings have in common the use of dramatic rallentandi and fermata chords on the key words of “death” (chorale 1) and “calm and quiet” sleep (chorale 2).

Following this serene depiction of the afterlife, the soprano recitative embarks on a reckoning with the world and sin, which, with references to “Babel’s waters”, “Sodom’s apples” and the “passion’s salt”, is replete with moral imagery. Once again, refuge is eventually found by the vocalist in a chorale. The solo voice in this simple setting is first accompanied only by an ostinato-style continuo motive; when the tender oboes d’amore enter and fill this austere structure with a unifying cantilena, the relationship between humble prayer and the comfort of being heard is conveyed in a wordless language. Through the alternation between chorale and recitative sections, the first two movements alone comprise a five-part form.
The tenor recitative “Ah, if it could for me now quickly come to pass” then expresses a death wish that nonetheless does not end in a rejection of the world, but instead, throughout the following aria, relates a death scene, in which the striking of the last hour is portrayed as the door to idyllic pastures. The use of swaying oboe lines over pizzicato strings (without organ accompaniment) was a logical choice for the text; it also represents the type of setting standard in both sacred and operatic baroque music that Bach succeeds in lending an individual quality – even in the middle section of the movement, which retained the accompanying motive, despite intensifying the mood.

In the bass recitative, death is pronounced with sermon-like authority as the coveted sleep that lays the body to well-earned rest. The setting proffers a range of metaphors on homecoming and the good shepherd, ere the arioso conclusion melds into a closing chorale, “Since thou from death arisen art”, that underscores the import of Christ’s resurrection through the medium of congregational singing. In this movement, the vocal parts are overarched by a violin obbligato that perseveres through all dissonant harmonies – and thus symbolically through all life and death. After fear of death is vanquished in the fourth line of the verse, the violin part is free to soar heavenward – where Jesus Christ already thrones – and, like the dove of the New Covenant, to bear witness to Christ’s beatitude.

Libretto

1. Choral und Rezitativ (Tenor)

Christus, der ist mein Leben,
Sterben ist mein Gewinn;
dem tu ich mich ergeben,
mit Freud fahr ich dahin.

Mit Freuden, ja, mit Herzenslust
will ich von hinnen scheiden.
Und hieß es heute noch: Du mußt!
so bin ich willig und bereit,
den armen Leib, die abgezehrten Glieder,
das Kleid der Sterblichkeit
der Erde wieder
in ihren Schoß zu bringen.
Mein Sterbelied ist schon gemacht;
ach, dürft ichs heute singen!
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
nach Gottes Willen,
getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
sanft und stille.
Was Gott mir verheißen hat:
Der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.

2. Rezitativ (Sopran)

Nun, falsche Welt!
nun hab ich weiter nichts mit dir zu tun;
mein Haus ist schon bestellt,
ich kann weit sanfter ruhn,
als da ich sonst bei dir,
an deines Babels Flüssen,
das Wollustsalz verschlucken müssen,
wenn ich an deinem Lustrevier
nur Sodomsäpfel konnte brechen.
Nein, nein! nun kann ich mit gelaßnerm Mute sprechen:

3. Choral

Valet will ich dir geben,
du arge, falsche Welt,
dein sündlich böses Leben
durchaus mir nicht gefällt.
Im Himmel ist gut wohnen,
hinauf steht mein Begier.
Da wird Gott ewig lohnen dem,
der ihm dient allhier.

4. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Ach könnte mir doch bald so wohl geschehn,
daß ich den Tod,
das Ende aller Not,
in meinen Gliedern könnte sehn,
ich wollte ihn zu meinem Leibgedinge wählen
und alle Stunden nach ihm zählen.

5. Arie (Tenor)

Ach, schlage doch bald, selge Stunde,
schlage doch bald den allerletzten Glockenschlag!
Komm, komm, ich reiche dir die Hände,
komm, mache meiner Not ein Ende,
du längst erseufzter Sterbenstag!

6. Rezitativ (Bass)

Denn ich weiß dies
und glaub es ganz gewiß,
daß ich aus meinem Grabe ganz einen sichern Zugang
zu dem Vater habe.
Mein Tod ist nur ein Schlaf,
dadurch der Leib, der hier von Sorgen abgenommen,
zur Ruhe kommen.
Sucht nun ein Hirte sein verlornes Schaf,
wie sollte Jesus mich nicht wieder finden,
da er mein Haupt und ich sein Gliedmaß bin!
So kann ich nun mit frohen Sinnen
mein selig Auferstehn auf meinen Heiland gründen.

7. Choral

Weil du vom Tod erstanden bist,
werd ich im Grab nicht bleiben;
dein letztes Wort mein Auffahrt ist,
Todsfurcht kannst du vertreiben.
Denn wo du bist, da komm ich hin,
daß ich stets bei dir leb und bin;
drum fahr ich hin mit Freuden.

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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