Bach served as Thomaskantor of Leipzig, musical director for liturgical services at St. Thomas and three other Lutheran churches in the city. We have outstandingly beautiful liturgical music for the entire year from Bach: Advent and Christmas oratorios, his famous works on the Passion, and music for major feast days. He also composed a number of so called Lutheran Masses, with parts reduced to the Kyrie and Gloria. His complete Catholic Mass, the Mass in B Minor, is truly his masterpiece, finished shortly before his death.

Bach’s Easter Oratorio was performed first on April 1, 1725, although it was reworked in following years. Its libretto is not scriptural, but embodies the reactions of four people to the empty tomb: Peter (tenor), John (bass), Mary Magdalene (alto), and the other Mary, mother of James (soprano).

The music contrasts the unexpected joy of the Resurrection with the grief that the disciples had prepared for their mourning at the tomb. The “laughter and merriment” of the first duet can be heard in the voices of the singers themselves. And yet, even after this joy, we still sense the anxiety of the disciples bring with them, the “myrrh” of which the other Mary sings. In the center of the work, Mary proclaims to John and Peter that the angel announced that Christ has risen and they find the empty shroud. This leads to a beautiful reflection of how our own death will become gentle—with peaceful and soothing music to match in a tenor aria. The following recitative and aria for the female voices express an intense longing and expectation. The trumpets erupt, with the triumphal voices of the choir following, to end on a note of exultant celebration!

The music can help us to express our own joy in the Resurrection. Enjoy!

 

Text:

 

Cantata for the First day of Easter
1. Sinfonia 1.Symphony
2. Arie (Duett) T B
Kommt, eilet und laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße,
Erreichet die Höhle, die Jesum bedeckt!
  Lachen und Scherzen
  Begleitet die Herzen,
  Denn unser Heil ist auferweckt.
2.Aria (Duet) Tenor, Bass
Come, hurry and run, you speedy feet,
reach the cavern which conceals Jesus!
  Laughter and merriment
  accompanies our hearts,
  since our Savior is risen again.
3. Rezitativ (Maria Magdalena [A], Maria Jacobi [S], Petrus [T], Johannes [B])

Maria Magdalena
O kalter Männer Sinn!
Wo ist die Liebe hin,
Die ihr dem Heiland schuldig seid?

Maria Jacobi
Ein schwaches Weib muß euch beschämen!

Petrus
Ach, ein betrübtes Grämen

Johannes
Und banges Herzeleid

Peter, Johannes
Hat mit gesalzen Tränen
Und wehmutsvollem Sehnen
Ihm eine Salbung zugedacht.

Maria Jacobi, Maria Magdalena
Die ihr, wie wir, umsonst gemacht.
3. Recitative (Mary Magdalene [A], Mary, Mother of James [S], Peter [T], John [B])

Mary Magdalene
O cold hearts of men!
Where has your love gone,
that you owe to the Savior?

Mary, Mother of James
A weak woman must put you to shame!

Peter
Alas, a troubled grieving

John
and anxious heartache

Peter, John
along with salty tears
and woeful longing
were intended as a salve for Him.

Mary, Mother of James, Mary Magdalene
Which you, like us, prepared in vain.
4. Arie S
Seele, deine Spezereien
Sollen nicht mehr Myrrhen sein.
  Denn allein
  Mit Lorbeerkranze prangen,
  Stillt dein ängstliches Verlangen.
4. Aria Soprano
O soul, your spices
need no longer be myrrh.
  For only
  crowning with the laurel wreath
  will quiet your anxious longing.
5. Rezitativ (Petrus [T], Johannes [B], Maria Magdalena [A])

Petrus
Hier ist die Gruft

Johannes
Und hier der Stein,
Der solche zugedeckt.
Wo aber wird mein Heiland sein?

Maria Magdalena
Er ist vom Tode auferweckt!
Wir trafen einen Engel an,
Der hat uns solches kundgetan.

Petrus
Hier seh ich mit Vergnügen
Das Schweißtuch abgewickelt liegen.
5. Recitative (Peter [T], John [B], Mary Magdalene [A])

Peter
Here is the grave

John
and here the stone
which sealed it.
Where, however, can my Savior be?

Mary Magdalene
He is risen from the dead!
We encountered an angel
who gave us these tidings.

Peter
Here I behold, with pleasure,
His shroud lying tossed aside.
6. Arie T
Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer,
Nur ein Schlummer,
Jesu, durch dein Schweißtuch sein.
Ja, das wird mich dort erfrischen
Und die Zähren meiner Pein
Von den Wangen tröstlich wischen.
6. Aria Tenor
Gentle shall my death-throes be,
only a slumber,
Jesus, because of your shroud.
Indeed, it will refresh me there,
and the tears of my suffering
it will tenderly wipe from my cheeks.
7. Rezitativ und Arioso (Duett) S A
Indessen seufzen wir
Mit brennender Begier:

Ach, könnt es doch nur bald geschehen,
Den Heiland selbst zu sehen!
7. Recitative (Duet) Soprano, Alto
Meanwhile we sigh
with burning desire:

Ah, could it only happen soon,
to see the Savior ourselves!
8. Arie A
Saget, saget mir geschwinde,
Saget, wo ich Jesum finde,
Welchen meine Seele liebt!
  Komm doch, komm, umfasse mich;
  Denn mein Herz ist ohne dich
  Ganz verwaiset und betrübt.
8. Aria Alto
Tell me, tell me quickly,
say where I can find Jesus,
whom my soul loves!
  O come, come, embrace me;
  for without You my heart is
  completely orphaned and wretched.
9. Rezitativ B
Wir sind erfreut,
Daß unser Jesus wieder lebt,
Und unser Herz,
So erst in Traurigkeit zerflossen und geschwebt,
Vergißt den Schmerz
Und sinnt auf Freudenlieder;
Denn unser Heiland lebet wieder.
9. Recitative Bass
We are delighted
that our Jesus lives again,
and our hearts,
which first dissolved and floated in grief,
forget the pain
and imagine songs of joy;
for our Savior lives again.
10. Chor
Preis und Dank
Bleibe, Herr, dein Lobgesang.
Höll und Teufel sind bezwungen,
Ihre Pforten sind zerstört.
Jauchzet, ihr erlösten Zungen,
Daß man es im Himmel hört.
Eröffnet, ihr Himmel, die prächtigen Bogen,
Der Löwe von Juda kommt siegend gezogen!
10. Chorus
Praise and thanks
remain, Lord, your hymn of praise.
Hell and the devil are conquered,
its gates are destroyed.
Rejoice, you rescued tongues,
so that you are heard in heaven.
Open, o heavens, your magnificent drawbridges,
the Lion of Judah approaches in triumph!

05 15 2017
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