Cantata BWV 151, "Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kömmt"
Composed for the 3rd day of Christmas in 1725, Cantata BWV 151 is a brief cantata of modest proportions, scope, and scoring. The author of the libretto is G.C. Lehms, a poet and court librarian in Darmstadt. The text draws on Hebrews 1: 1-14, one of the readings of the day. The final movement sets the eighth verse of the chorale "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich," written in 1560 by Nicholas Herman.
The work is scored for flauto traverso, oboe damore, strings, continuo, SATB solos. Interestingly enough, the voices only appear together in the final movement, which could be sung by an SATB choir or by the solo quartet. The other movements are taken by the soloists and different combinations from the orchestra.
The first movement is a pastorale, at least in character. The lilting, slow, 12/8 meter reflects not only "Susser Trost" (sweet comfort), but also the gentle simplicity of the nativity scene. Bach marks the dynamics here "sempre piano" (always soft). Were not used to seeing many dynamics written in the score by Bach (most are editors markings, added after publication), so it must have been very important to the composer to keep the festivities over the Christ Childs birth restrained; perhaps this is in some ways a lullaby for the sleeping infant Jesus.
The aria is a da capo aria, with the B section contrasting in almost every imaginable way:
Next follow two recitatives for the solo males voices (bass, then tenor), as bookends around an alto aria. The alto aria is set in e minor, the relative minor key of Cantata 151. It is scored for oboe damore, strings, continuo, and alto solo. The violins and violas are surprisingly silent when the alto sings, speaking only between her statements. This movement is related to the first aria in a few ways:
Cantata 151 closes with a 4-part chorale, setting the eighth verse of Nicholas Hermans "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich." The melody is also by Herman, though written a few years earlier (1554) for a secular text. The chorale returns the cantata to its original tonic key, and the text represents the feeling of hope that Christians associate with the birth of their Messiah.
© 2004 Carol Traupman-Carr
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