The much-acclaimed Bach Collegium Japan performed a concert in Washington, DC on February 11, 2023. Masaaki Suzuki conducted the ensemble that featured outstanding baritone singer Roderick Williams, OBE. This event was part of the wonderful concert series sponsored and presented by the Library of Congress.
On the program were Bach’s Orchestral Suite no. 2 in B minor, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch’s Sonata da Camera on “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” Georg Philipp Telemann’s Cantata “Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus,” Telemann’s “Pariser” Quartet in D Major and Bach’s Cantata “Ich habe genug,” BWV 82 (1727 with revisions).
Bach composed the Cantata “Ich habe genug” –as most of his cantatas- for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He specifically wrote this one for a service in February 1727 to celebrate the Feast of Purification of Mary (“Mariä Reinigung”), also known as candle mass (“Mariä Lichtmess”). This celebration closes the Christmas season and occurs four Sundays after Epiphany, generally on or around February 2.
Bach’s Cantata is ultimately about coming to terms with death and to accept with good faith what is to come. Listening carefully to the text may surprise the listener: Death is portrayed in an unusually comforting manner with somewhat realistic, non-metaphorical words.
The story is about the biblical figure Simeon. In summary: At his very old age, Simeon goes to the temple and gets to hold the infant Jesus. This event fills him with such gratitude, hope, and joy that he gently accepts his nearing death and is even looking forward to it.
The cantata tells the story from two perspectives. The first perspective, represented in the arias, is in the voice of Simeon. The second perspective is that of a narrator, represented in the recitatives. The recitatives interpret what was sung in Simeon’s preceding arias. In the attended performance, all parts were performed in a captivating and convincing way by Roderick Williams, who impersonated both the protagonist Simeon in the arias and the narrator in the recitatives.
The Cantata has five movements in the order of Aria-Recitative-Aria-Recitative-Aria. Digital images of the manuscript are available online from Bach-Digital.de (link).
The opening aria starts with “Ich habe genug,” which means “I have enough.” The text in this movement is carried by melodies and harmonies filled with expressions of gratitude, happiness, trust and consolation. In the text, Simeon elaborates that he has enough, that he held the infant who is the incarnation of hope, in his arms. Filled with joy from this experience, and with faith in what is coming, he now yearns with happiness, “mit Freuden,” to depart from this world.
The second movement is a recitative. The narrator also opens with the words “Ich habe genug,” and expresses finding consolation in Jesus and in faith. Having seen how Simeon was changed by his experience, the narrator acts encouraged and also wishes to be freed from his earthly, bodily chains. With yearning to be released from all terrestrial chains and pains the narrator closes this recitative: “Ach! Wäre doch mein Abschied hier, Mit Freuden sagt ich, Welt, zu dir: ich habe genug!,” which means “Oh! If only my departing from life was here now, I would say to you, world, with joy: I have enough.”
The middle movement is an aria, in which Simeon asks that his tired eyes may now gently fall asleep. He continues saying “Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,” –“World, I am no longer staying here” and elaborates that there is nothing but misery left for him on this earth to fill his soul. However, ‘there,’ meaning on the other side, in death, he sees sweet peace and noiseless quiet.
In the fourth movement, a recitative, the narrator picks up from there and, now with more urgency, expresses yearning for the moment to leave this life, asking “wenn kommt das Schöne: Nun” which in translation means “when is it coming, this beautiful: ‘now’?” He imagines going into peace, into “the sand of the cool earth” and into the bosom of heaven. This recitative concludes with the words “Der Abschied ist gemacht: Welt, gute Nacht!” – “The departing of life is prepared: World, good night!”
The Cantata closes with an aria and culminates in the deepened expression of comfort and peaceful anticipation of death. It combines and juxtaposes the old and the new, the end and the beginning, joyful music with a somber topic, and conveys hope for a gentle transition. It brings to a close the life of Simeon, the end of the Christmas season, and shifts to the beginning of a new life with growing hope for a new era.
With a mood of gratefulness, happy anticipation and comfort, the Cantata ends on the words “Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod, Ach! hätt er sich schon eingefunden. Da entkomm ich aller Not, die mich noch auf der Welt gebunden.” – “I look forward to my death. Oh! If only it was here already. There, I will be freed from all distress that still tied me to the world.” The music is dance-like and fast paced, and while it is in G minor, the final chord is in C Major, which has been the key associated in music history as the key of perfect harmony, of heaven, purity and light.
Bach’s Cantata, as presented in the performance by Roderick Williams and the Bach Collegium Japan, left the audience in awe, humbled, moved, elated and uplifted. Standing ovations were acknowledged with an encore. It was a powerful performance experience.
Below you will find materials to check out from the NLS Music Section, to download from BARD, or to review from the Library of Congress’ collections. To borrow accessible music talking books on digital cartridge or music scores in hard copy braille or large print, or to learn more about NLS services, please call us at 1-800-424-8567, ext. 2, or e-mail us at [email protected]
BWV 82 – Ich habe genug. Translated by Daniel Molkentin; narrated by Nils Neubert. Learn the text of this work with the help of a native German speaker reciting the text poetically and at a slow pace, word-for-word (literal) English translation, and IPA Guide — Publisher’s note. For SATB voicing. Tracks included consist of : Movement 1 – Arie: Ich habe genug, Movement 2 – Recit: Ich habe genug. Mein Trost ist nur allein, Movement 3 – Arie: Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen, Movement 4 – Recit: Mein Gott! Wenn kömmt das schöne: Nun!, Movement 5 – Arie: Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod. (DBM03582)
How to understand and listen to great music. Baroque sacred music Part 2: The Lutheran Church cantata (Bach course). By Jonathan Greenberg. (DBM01532, Cartridge only)
Johann Sebastian Bach. By Jeremy Siepmann. (DBM02893)
Concert and conversation Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan. April 11, 2015 (DBM04559)
Leipzig: Collegia Musica and the Thomas Cantorate in the Seventeenth Century. (DBM00386)
The Narrated Life History of Johann Sebastian Bach, by Marcia Dangerfield. (DBM03389)
The World’s 50 Greatest Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach. From Inteliquest Knowledge Master Series. (DBM01623)
Ich habe genug. Cantata No. 82. For voices. (BRT37140)
Ich habe genug. Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen. Vocal score. English and German. Slumber now, ye weary eyelids. (BRM01092)
Library of Congress Resources
Concert program booklet: Bach Collegium Japan with Roderick Williams, OBE. PDF provided by the Library of Congress.
Concert with Bach Collegium Japan (video). April 11, 2015. Library of Congress. Bach guru Masaaki Suzuki brings his critically acclaimed Bach Collegium Japan to the Library for a mixed program of works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi and Handel. The ensemble has a vast recording and touring profile, including a landmark recording of the complete cantatas by J.S. Bach. Presented in association with the Embassy of Japan. Program includes Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047 (Bach), Concerto in C major for recorder, strings and continuo, RV 443 (Vivaldi), Gloria in B-flat major, HWV deest (Handel), Oboe Concerto in C major, RV 450 (Vivaldi), Sonata for flute in E minor, BWV 1034 and Cantata BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! (Bach).
Conversation with Masaaki Suzuki (video). April 11, 2015. Library of Congress.
#Declassified: In Bach’s Hand: Notes and Accounts (video). April 22, 2017. Library of Congress. Jan Lauridsen and Anne McLean discuss items held at the Library’s collections in the hand of J.S. Bach, including the manuscripts of two cantatas (BWV 9 and 10) and records related to his work in Leipzig.