Cantata BWV 61 is from Bach’s Weimar years. The opening chorus is an ingenious version of the four phrases that constitute the chorale. The first phrase is repeated four times by each of the four voices in the chorus of the stern dotted rhythms of the string orchestra playing a French Overture. The second phrase is sung together by the entire chorus. The third phrase is turned into the fleet middle section of the French Overture. The fourth phrase brings back the dotted rhythms of the opening. A tenor recitative leads us into the flowing and Italianate tenor aria. Pizzicato strings accompany the inward, moving bass recitative of Jesus knocking at the door. The soprano aria with continuo is childlike and breathtakingly interior. Surprisingly Bach ends the cantata not with the opening chorale but a grand harmonization of the last half of the chorale "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern."

©Craig Smith

Back to Bach Notes & Translations