The solo cantata BWV 157 was commissioned as a memorial cantata for Johann von Ponickau, a privy councillor and chamberlain at the Saxon court. The piece has only come down to us via a score and set of parts copied by Penzel (a successor of Bach as Cantor of the Leipzig Thomaskirche) and there are many discrepancies between them. Fortunately, reconstruction is possible!
The Cantata opens with a fine duet between tenor and bass that is introduced with an equally fine and florid accompaniment from flute, oboe and violin. The voices are in canon, perhaps reflecting the words (from Genesis xxxxii. 24-30) that in scripture go on to relate the story of Jacob wrestling with a stranger (canon = wrestling? Well, maybe it's a bit far fetched!) The tenor aria is most notable for its oboe d'amore accompaniment and the following recitative also has an attractive accompaniment. The fine bass aria has a lovely part for the flute (so I am biased in its favour!) and breaks into arioso near the end for dramatic effect before returning to its original texture. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale setting.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.