Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Spiritual Journey With Bach

Ich habe genug,
Ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der Frommen,
Auf meine begierigen Arme genommen;
Ich habe genug!

Ich hab ihn erblickt,
Mein Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze gedrückt;
Nun wünsch ich, noch heute mit Freuden
Von hinnen zu scheiden.

I have enough,
I have taken the Savior, the hope of the righteous,
Into my eager arms;
I have enough!

I have beheld Him,
My faith has pressed Jesus to my heart;
now I wish, even today with joy
To depart from here.

The above text is from the first aria from Bach's Cantata BWV 82 - Ich Habe Genug (I Have Enough). I didn't know what made me pick up a recording of this from my shelves last night and play it on my CD player. But I do know that just a mere first few bars into this piece, I felt an overwhelming sense of pathos to this most spiritual work. The first few bars alone gave an unmistakable idea that I was at a start of an intense spiritual journey. In certain sections of this aria, the music reaches a point of anguish and restraint, but not to the extent of losing that innately deep spiritual peace when having our hearts facing towards our Saviour.

How much I love the sound of the oboe d'amore played by Peggy Pearson and how captivating the unique tones of the voice, oboe d'amore, strings and the organ gives the entire work a most sombre quality. The static bass line used by Bach seems to restrain movement of the aria, seemingly to imply that death is eminent. Such a powerful and masterly manner Bach had used this device! I could go on and on about what I felt from just the first aria, but I guess I'll spare everyone of my excessive outpouring of emotions here.

I have to admit that so long after Serene had given this to me as a gift, I have been unable to see anything deep about this work until last night and thus chucked it aside for quite some time until
I felt an invisible urge to play the CD last night. A million thanks to Serene for this gift of a CD by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. I'm now one of the victims of her amazing artistry. Such a gift of being able to make her music come to life. A quote by Peter Sellars, who did the staging of the two cantatas in the CD featuring BWV 82 and BWV 199.

Her voice is filling the room and you don’t know where it’s coming from… She is going right to the heart of a suffering person, not to increase the suffering, but to heal it, to release it, to offer some kind of balm… which is what her voice ends up doing. It can be piercing and shocking in its intensity, and then this incredible balm of compassion and tenderness, of generosity that is poured out of her voice like a kind of liquid that is there to heal.

Peter Sellars
A little background of this work for some who might be interested, taken from the programme booklet.

The passage of this piece is taken from Luke 2:22-32 and it focuses on Simeon, to whom it has been revealed by the Holy Ghost that "that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ." The work is then the contents of Simeon's beatific prayer:-

Luk 2:29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
Luk 2:30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Luk 2:31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
Luk 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Such sincere words fixed to such sublime music. Such beauty.

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