All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe

BWV 185 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Alfredo Bernardini
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

Conductor and oboist Alfredo Bernardini explains how Bach aimed at composing church music that would appeal to his audience.

Bass Dominik Wörner on the aria 'Das ist der Christen Kunst'.

Bach in his element

As a Konzertmeister in Weimar, Bach could at last really indulge in vocal music.

When the twenty-three-year-old organist Johann Sebastian Bach made the switch from Mühlhausen to Weimar in 1708, he had high expectations. Not only was he to receive a much higher salary and work with professional musicians for the first time, but if all went well he could also demonstrate his talent as a composer of vocal music to a much greater extent at the court of Weimar. In practice, however, he was disappointed, as his new employer Duke Wilhelm Ernst had hired Bach primarily as a star organist. And although he completely lived up to those expectations – the young musician stood out for his playing and improvisation, as well as composing a great variety of music for the organ – he did not get round to composing church music in his first years there.

 The increase in salary enabled Bach to set up his own household for the first time with Maria Barbara, who was now expecting their first child after their marriage in October 1707. A further five Bach children were born in Weimar, including Wilhelm Friedemann in 1710 and Carl Philipp Emanuel in 1714. That year also heralded the beginning of a new career, as the duke appointed Bach Konzertmeister.
For the next three years, Bach was in his element, composing a total of around twenty cantatas in a completely individual style. For his recitatives and arias (often da capo, i.e. where the opening is repeated at the end), he used new texts, such as those by Salomo Franck, the chief librarian at Weimar, while he usually used biblical texts just for the closing chorales. This innovative strategy allowed him to thoroughly indulge in composition.

In the cantata Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe from 1715, four soloists are accompanied by strings, oboe and – to reinforce the basso continuo – a bassoon. Three arias alternate with two recitatives, and the piece closes with a chorale. The theme of the cantata can be summarised as ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself’. The alto urges a forgiving outlook, following which the bass specifies the message further: don’t complain about the mote in your brother’s eye, but first remove the beam from your own. It ends with the chorale to Agricola’s ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’, which was already heralded at the beginning, as the oboe weaves the chorale melody through the delicate duet for soprano and tenor.


BWV
185

Title
Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe

genre
cantata

year
1715

city
Weimar

Lyricist
Salomo Franck

Occasion
Fourth Sunday after Trinity

First performance
14 July 1715

Special notes/reuse
performed again in Leipzig on 20 June 1723 (then with ‘clarino’ instead of oboe) and in 1746/1747

Cast & Crew

Publicatiedatum 20 February 2015
date 7 June 2014
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
conductor and oboe Alfredo Bernardini
Soprano Julia Doyle
alto Tim Mead
tenor Jan Kobow
Bass Dominik Wörner
Violin 1 Shunske Sato
violin 2 Cecilia Bernardini
viola Staas Swierstra
Cello Lucia Swarts
double bass Robert Franenberg
bassoon Benny Aghassi
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
church organ Leo van Doeselaar
CONCERT production Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
Producer Zoë de Wilde, Frank van der Weij
Film director MaNOj Kamps, Onno van Ameijde, Jasper Verkaart
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA Jorrit Garretsen, Joris Kerbosch, Sal Kroonenberg
FILM EDITORS Jasper Verkaart, MaNOj Kamps, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCER Leo de Klerk
GAFFER Harm Bredero, Alban Riphagen
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap Firet, Pim van der Lee, Jaap van Stenis, Bobby Verbakel
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
CAMERA ASSISTaNT Izak de Dreu
MUSIC EDIT AND MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC EDIT aNd MIX ASSSISTANT Martijn Snoeren
Colorist Marlieke Kasten
Acknowledgements Nienke Meuleman

Vocal Texts

Original

1. Arie (Sopran, Tenor)

Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe,
errege, bewege mein Herze durch dich;
damit ich Erbarmen und Gütigkeit übe,
o Flamme der Liebe, zerschmelze du mich!

2. Rezitativ (Alt)

Ihr Herzen, die ihr euch
in Stein und Fels verkehret,
zerfliesst und werdet weich,
erwägt, was euch der Heiland lehret,
übt, übt Barmherzigkeit
und sucht noch auf der Erden
dem Vater gleich zu werden!
Ach! greifet nicht durch das verbotne
Richten dem Allerhöchsten
ins Gericht,
sonst wird sein Eifer
euch zernichten.
Vergebt, so wird euch
auch vergeben;
gebt, gebt in diesem Leben;
macht euch ein Kapital,
das dort einmal
Gott wiederzahlt mit reichen Interessen;
denn wie ihr messt,
wird man euch wieder messen.

3. Arie (Alt)

Sei bemüht in dieser Zeit,
Seele, reichlich auszustreuen,
soll die Ernte dich erfreuen
in der reichen Ewigkeit,
wo, wer Gutes ausgesäet,
fröhlich nach den Garben gehet.

4. Rezitativ (Bass)

Die Eigenliebe schmeichelt sich!
Bestrebe dich,
erst deinen Balken auszuziehen,
denn magst du dich um Splitter auch
bemühen, die in des Nächsten
Augen sein.
Ist gleich dein Nächsten nicht
vollkommen rein,
so wisse, dass auch du kein Engel,
verbessre deine Mängel!
Wie kann ein Blinder mit dem andern
doch recht und richtig wandern?
Wie, fallen sie zu ihrem Leide
nicht in die Gruben alle beide?

5. Arie (Bass)

Das ist der
Christen Kunst:
nur Gott und sich erkennen,
von wahrer Liebe brennen,
nicht unzulässig richten,
noch fremdes Tun vernichten,
des Nächsten nicht vergessen,
mit reichem Masse messen:
das macht bei Gott
und Menschen Gunst,
das ist der
Christen Kunst.

6. Choral

Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
ich bitt, erhör mein Klagen,
verleih mir Gnad zu dieser Frist,
lass mich doch nicht verzagen;
den rechten Glauben, Herr, ich mein,
den wollest du mir geben,
dir zu leben,
meinm Nächsten nütz zu sein,
dein Wort zu halten eben.

Translation

1. Aria 

Merciful heart of love everlasting, 
move and stir my heart through thine; 
that I may practise both goodness and 
mercy, O flame of love, come melt my heart! 

2. Recitative 

Ye hearts, who have 
changed into stones and rocks, 
dissolve and soften, 
consider what the Saviour teaches you, 
practise, practise charity 
and strive while still on earth 
to become just like the Father! 
Ah! do not obstruct through forbidden judgement 
the judgement of the Almighty, 
or His zealous wrath will destroy you. 
Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; 
give in good measure during this life; 
store up a capital 
which there one day 
God shall repay with ample interest; 
for with the same measure that ye mete withal, 
it shall be measured to you again. 

3. Aria 

Be at pains in this life, 
O soul, to scatter ample seed, 
if the harvest is to gladden you 
in rich eternity, 
where he who has sown good things 
shall gladly gather the sheaves. 

4. Recitative 

Self-love deceives! 
Endeavour first 
to pull the beam from 
your own eye, 
then concern yourself with the mote 
in your neighbour’s eye. 
Though your neighbour be not wholly pure, 
remember, you are no angel either, 
reform your failings!
 
How can one blind man with another 
walk along the straight and narrow? 
Will they not, to their sorrow,
 
both fall into the ditch? 

5. Aria 

This is the 
Christian’s art: 
know God and know oneself, 
burn with true love, 
do not judge unless authorised, 
do not destroy another’s work, 
do not forget to treat your neighbour 
most generously: 
this makes for goodwill 
with God and man, 
this is the 
Christian’s art. 

6. Chorale 

I call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, 
I beg Thee, hear my wailing, 
grant me grace at this time 
and let me not despair; 
I think, O Lord, that Thou 
wouldst show me 
the proper path, 
that I might live for Thee, 
serve my neighbour well, 
in short, uphold Thy word.

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