In this intimate, mostly solo cantata, Jesus appears to have gone missing but it is we who are lost. To me, this sense of loss is universal, whatever the object of our need—a higher power or loved one, a deeply-held belief, our health or place in the world. The text and Bach’s sublime music express the shared story of our journeys from lost to found, from grief to—if not joy—then acceptance and perhaps unexpected insights.
The opening tenor aria is deeply pained, all but torn apart by grief. There is anger, also, and like the bereft tenor, we, too, have raged at being hurt, seemingly forgotten by fate or the beloved. The chorale and the exquisite alto aria, with the two oboes d’amore woven around her like an embrace, express the depth of our longing. When Jesus speaks at last, we are comforted, overjoyed. But then, in what I found a very surprising turn, a new insight is expressed in both the glorious alto/tenor duet and the closing chorale: that in fact it was we who, by loss of faith, had betrayed Jesus, and we offer a promise that we will not doubt him again. We—humanity—seem to have come to a new understanding that the road to peace may be in here rather than out there.