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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Der Friede sei mit dir (May peace be unto you)

Cantata 158

  • Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Epistle: Malacai iii. 1-4 (The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 22-32 (Simeon prophesies of Christ)
  • Rating: 1

Blink and you'll miss it! At around twelve minutes long and with only four movements (recitative, aria/chorale, recitative, chorale), BWV 158 is thought to represent only a fragment of a larger work. Certainly, looking at the form of other cantatas, one would at least expect another aria before the closing chorale. If this hypothesis is true then it is a great shame since the surviving movements are all excellent and hint at a masterpiece. The major part of the cantata is taken up with a bass aria woven around a soprano chorale accompanied by a beautiful, singing, violin accompaniment. Robertson suggests comparison with Schlummert ein from the great BWV 82 and Schuhmacher (in the Teldec series notes) suggests Erbarme dich from the St. Matthew Passion. Can I say more in praise of this movement? The opening recitative includes arioso sections of outstanding beauty and the second recitative is hardly less impressive. The cantata finishes with the fifth verse of Luther's great hymn Christ lag in Todesbanden.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.