It's not known for whom (or when) this beautiful wedding cantata was composed but scholars have narrowed down the date to the late 1730's or the early 1740's and have identified a few (lucky) possible recipients. Whoever they were, they must have been dearly loved by Bach (or have paid well!), for amongst the surviving material for this work is a beautiful presentation short score (for voice and harpsichord), that would have gone to the bride and groom. Lest one thinks that the date means that the work represents a late flowering of Bach's inspiration, it has to be pointed out that the music derives from a much earlier model, BWV 210a, dating from 1729 (and there may be earlier, lost, common sources). Also BWV 30a/11 can be found lurking as the eighth movement of this work.
The cantata opens with a recitative introducing the happy day and which leads into the first aria. Here we quickly realise that we're in for something special as the confident orchestral introduction gives way to a delightful vocal line praising the power of music to move the soul. The following recitative doubts that music should interrupt the harmony of bride and groom (in the wedding service) and a lovely oboe line introduces the next aria (Rest here, weary tones) which amplifies this thought. The next recitative gets rifgt to the point hinted at in the previous numbers: it's an extended monologue reflecting on the meaning of music. There may very well be echos here of Bach's famous dispute with Scheibe, and the composer (and/or his poet) may be reflecting upon the changing status of music in society as the enlightenment ground on. The next aria (Silent, you flutes, silent, you tones) beautifully accompanied by the flute seems resigned to the fate of music but the following recitative gathers its strength and rejects such a downcast view. The next aria, set as a lovely polonaise, completes the defence, ending with Nothing can enthral you so fully, As the sweet sounds of fine art. The final recitative urges the bridegroom not to abandon his love and patronage of music and the cantata ends with a jolly aria of general rejoicing.
Whoever was the intended singer in this cantata (and some have suggested that it was Anna Magdalena Bach), she must have had well-oiled top notes, for the tessitura is high, reaching a top c# at one point.
It seems strange that this work is so little known and rarely performed and recorded. It is a very beautiful work in which a good soprano can show off her skills! What's more, the libretto isn't as weak as some of those in the cantatas and its form (reflecting on the nature, use and status of music) is sufficiently universal to encourage general use. Do go out of you way to seek out this piece.
Copyright © 1999, Simon Crouch.