From the pathos of the opening aria to the barely restrained fury of the aria “Die schäumenden Wellen von Belials Bächen,” in which Bach exhorts his fellow Christians to “stand like a rock,” emotion is never far below the surface in this cantata. I hear in the opening aria a sense of longing and loss — the soloist pining for a lover who isn’t there. It has often struck me how Bach expresses his love for God in such literal fashion — as a perfect analog for the romantic love two people may feel for each other, although admittedly Bach expression of this love can sometimes come off a bit like the Internet’s famed “Overly Attached Girlfriend.” It’s a refreshing reminder that despite our tendency to think of classical music — and Baroque music particularly — as being something academic or antiseptic, the same passion that drives many of us to express ourselves creatively today was present for those who’ve preceded us, even by hundreds of years. Whether by design or happy accident, the liturgical use of Bach’s work shows how that passion could be wielded to instill an emotional response. One of the great powers of music is the ability to bypass intellect, and directly trigger emotion in listeners.

Nuri Hed
Director of Marketing & Communications