Music Notes on "Was willst du dich betrüben" BWV 107 J.S. Bach
On Sunday after reading the translations in the bulletin of the various movements of "Was willst du dich betrüben" (Why do you wish to trouble yourself?) you may see why we have nicknamed this glorious work after the song by Bobby McFerrin- “Don’t worry, be happy!” The cantata libretto by Johann Heermann, (1630) embraces themes of trust in God and having the courage to act on your convictions– it takes courage to not worry, trust and be happy!
We present this cantata non-sequentially. That is, we begin not with the opening chorus but with the Bass arias, both casting the idea that life is normally troubled but we can confidently overcome troubles with faith.
The tenor aria at the Sequence has a wonderful, simple idea at its core. The image of Satan arising out of hell to combat our faith is vividly portrayed by the snaking and sinister and reptilian cello line. This aria is a marvelous insinuating piece, extremely economical in its musical materials, and possibly the most interesting text setting in the cantata. After the sermon the soprano sings an ornamented version of the chorale tune with two oboes d'amore obbligato
The cantata’s opening chorus is sung at the offertory. It is somewhat mysterious; it can be read two ways. One can see it as a sustained legato Andante, lyrical and dreamy, somewhat “ betrüben” as the text warns us not to be. Another equally plausible character is light, fast, nervous and agitated. The whole thing has an ephemeral quality. It is an impressive piece, but one certainly wishes that Bach had left us a tempo mark to help determine its true character.
At the communion another tenor aria but this one truly the most light-hearted piece in the cantata. The two flutes play a jaunty tune over a pizzicato bass. Bach is intentionally imitating the sound of a Baroque flute organ stop in the flutes and strings.
Bach turns to the Sicilliano for his final verse with chorus. That form always has a special quality in Bach and this particular one has an especially appealing melancholy to it. One should notice how the very beginning theme in the top line of the orchestra outlines the theme of the chorale. One can miss it because the dance rhythm and driving harmony have our attention. This is a cantata that gets stronger and stronger as it goes on. This chorale tune with the original words was the subject of one of Bach's greatest organ chorale preludes BWV 658, published in the 18 Leipzig Chorales. It clearly engages him ever more progressively here.
Later Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm, the last in our series of chamber music concerts will feature cellist Olga Redkina and pianist Dr. Marvin Balaan. They will perform the Myaskovsky cello sonata and works by Faure and Popper. Her concert will be SKYPED to her international roster of students. More about Olga can be found at her website: https://www.olgaredkina.com Suggested Donation; $10