All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe

Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Geertekerk, Utrecht

Lars Ulrik Mortensen: "A line that first goes up and then down again... It is a very good example of Bach illustrating the meaning of a text."

To be healed or to die?

A sick man ‘with one foot in the grave’ is torn between two alternatives: dying and being reconciled to his fate or still hoping to be healed.

Thirty of the more than two hundred surviving cantatas by Bach are about death, while many more refer to death indirectly. Like his contemporaries, Bach was all too familiar with death, as ten of his twenty-one children died in infancy.
The six-part cantata ‘Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe’ opens with a Sinfonia that is dominated by a melancholy oboe solo, which Bach was to reuse later in his harpsichord concerto BWV 1056. The first aria has an unusual construction. While the tenor already appears to be reconciled with his demise, the soprano cuts through his sorrowful notes with Johann Hermann Schein’s hymn ‘Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt’.

The lyrics, written by Picander, refer to the gospel reading of the third Sunday after Epiphany, in which Jesus heals a leper. The piece is thus torn between two alternatives: on the one hand God is beseeched to end the sinner’s suffering by receiving him into heaven, and on the other the prospect of being healed is very attractive. The central aria forms the pivotal point between these two extremes. The alto solos alternate with a cheerful instrumental concertino for oboe, violin and continuo. The final chorale, an original melody by Bach, concludes with ‘Dein Will, der ist der beste’.


BWV
156

Title
Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe

genre
cantata (solo cantata)

year
1729?

city
Leipzig

Lyricist
Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici)

Occasion
third Sunday after Epiphany

First performance
23 January 1729

Special notes
The opening sinfonia is probably part of a lost oboe concerto. Bach used this music later as the second section of the harpsichord concerto BWV 1056.

Cast & Crew

Release date 26 September 2014
Release date 1 February 2014
Location Geertekerk, Utrecht
conductor and harpsichord Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Soprano Lauren Armishaw
Alto Maarten Engeltjes
tenor Markus Schäfer
bass Thomas Bauer
oboe Martin Stadler
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Sayuri Yamagata, Anneke van Haaften
violin 2 Pieter Affourtit, Paulien Kostense, Annelies van der Vegt
viola Staas Swierstra, Femke Huizinga
CELLO Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Robert Franenberg
positive organ Siebe Henstra
CONCERT PRODUCTION Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
Producer Frank van der Weij
Film director Lucas van Woerkum
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA Sal Kroonenberg, Jorrit Garretsen, Robert Berger, Benjamin Sparschuh
film editors Lucas van Woerkum, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCER Leo de Klerk
GAFFER Roel Ypma
Best Boy Chris Uitenwijk
production assistent Zoë de Wilde
Score reader Jan Van den Bossche
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
TRAINEES CAMERA Izak de Dreu, Indy Hamid
MUSIC PRODUCER'S ASSISTANT Mieneke van der Velden
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap van Stenis, Gilius Kreiken, Jaap van Firet
Data handler Joep Bannenberg
MUSIC EDIT and MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC EDIT and MIX ASSSISTANT Martijn Snoeren
colorist Jef Grosfeld
Acknowledgements Rob van Stek

Vocal Texts

Original

1. Sinfonia


2. Arie (Tenor), Choral (Sopran)

Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe,
Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt,
bald fällt der kranke Leib hinein,
hilf mir in meinen Leiden,
komm, lieber Gott, wenn dir’s gefällt,
was ich dich bitt, versag mir nicht.
ich habe schon mein Haus bestellt,
wenn sich mein Seel soll scheiden,
so nimm sie, Herr, in deine Händ.
Nur lass mein Ende selig sein!
Ist alles gut, wenn gut das End.

3. Rezitativ (Bass)

Mein Angst und Not,
mein Leben und mein Tod
steht, liebster Gott, in deinen Händen;
so wirst du auch auf mich
dein gnädig Auge wenden.
Willst du mich meiner Sünden wegen
ins Krankenbette legen,
mein Gott, so bitt ich dich,
lass deine Güte grösser sein
als die Gerechtigkeit;
doch hast du mich dazu versehn,
dass mich mein Leiden soll verzehren,
ich bin bereit,
dein Wille soll an mir geschehn,
verschone nicht und fahre fort,
lass meine Not nicht lange währen;
je länger hier,
je später dort.

4. Arie (Alt)

Herr, was du willt, soll mir gefallen,
weil doch dein Rat am besten gilt.
In der Freude,
in dem Leide,
im Sterben, in Bitten und Flehn
lass mir allemal geschehn,
Herr, wie du willt.

5. Rezitativ (Bass)

Und willst du, dass ich nicht soll kranken,
so werd ich dir von Herzen danken;
doch aber gib mir auch dabei,
dass auch in meinem frischen Leibe
die Seele sonder Krankheit sei
und allezeit gesund verbleibe.
Nimm sie durch Geist und Wort in acht,
denn dieses ist mein Heil,
und wenn mir Leib
und Seel verschmacht,
so bist du, Gott, mein Trost
und meines Herzens Teil!

6. Choral

Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir
im Leben und im Sterben;
allein zu dir steht mein Begier,
Herr, lass mich nicht verderben!
Erhalt mich nur in deiner Huld,
sonst wie du willt, gib mir Geduld,
dein Will, der ist der beste.

Translation

1. Sinfonia 


2. Aria, chorale 


I stand with one foot in the grave, 
Do with me, God, according to Thy 
goodness, my ailing body will soon fall in, 
help me in my suffering, 
come dear God, if Thou wilt, 
what I request, do not deny me. 
I have already put my house in order, 
At my soul’s departure, 
receive it, Lord, into Thy hand. 
only let my end be a blissful one! 
For all is good, if the end is good. 

3. Recitative 

My fear and affliction, 
my life and my death, 
are all, dearest God, in Thy hands; 
thus shalt Thou turn 
Thy gracious eye on me. 
If Thou wouldst, because of my sins, 
lay me in my sick-bed, 
my God, I beg of Thee, 
let Thy goodness be greater than Thy justice; 
yet if Thou hast intended 
that my suffering should consume me, 
I am prepared, 
let Thy will be done on me, 
do not spare me, and have Thy way, 
let me affliction not last long; 
the longer here, 
the later there. 

4. Aria 

Lord, what Thou wilt, shall please me, 
for Thy counsel is considered the best. 
In gladness, 
in sadness, 
in dying, beseeching and pleading, always treat me, 
Lord, as Thou wilt. 

5. Recitative 

And if Thou dost wish me not to suffer, 
I shall thank Thee with all my heart; 
but grant to me as well 
that in my living body 
my soul be free from sickness 
and healthy at all times. 
Tend it through the spirit and the Word, 
for this is my salvation, 
and if my body 
and soul should fail, 
Thou art, God, my comfort 
and a portion of my heart! 

6. Chorale 

Lord, deal with me as Thou wilt, 
in living and in dying; 
my desire is for Thee alone, 
Lord, do not let me perish! 
Preserve me only in Thy grace, 
just as Thou wilt, let me forbear, 
for Thy will is the best.

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