Comfort and Joy: to connect BWV 147 to the holiday season, this is the cantata from which the chorale “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is derived. I was familiar with this piece as a holiday chorale before I was introduced to the full context and I’m still filled with a sense of comfort and joy when I hear it. For me, this chorale evokes memories of a soothing sense of peace, like softly falling snow, a cozy blanket, or a soup simmering on my stovetop.
Conversations and storytelling: BWV 147 strikes me as powerfully conversant. Although I find the storytelling of Bach’s work to always be excellent, there is something of a fairytale aesthetic to this cantata for me, particularly in the tenor’s recitative. We can also hear frequent instances of conversations between three primary voices: for example, cello, oboe, and voice in the alto aria; cello, voice, and organ in the bass recitative, and violin, cello, and voice in the soprano aria. Listening to this cantata, I wonder what exactly is implied in these conversations of three, but I also was reminded that I have quite a few trios in my own small groups of personal friends. What is about this balance that feels comforting? Is it a relation to the holy trinity? A balance natural to our humanity? Whatever this cantata means to us, whatever it inspires us to feel, BWV 147 is the perfect example of uniting our shared human experiences through music.