J.S. Bach: Mein Leben hat kein ander Ziel

Written by Michael Barrett

Associate Artistic Director, NYFOS

September 21, 2017

Continuing our quick survey of J.S. Bach, here is another cantata aria. It is really chamber music. The countertenor’s expressive part is underpinned by an incredible duet between the organ and oboe, creating a kind of trio sonata. The mastery of counterpoint is intimidating (at least for us performers), but the outcome is so joyful, it’s irresistible. The text? Well, it is about death, but the joy comes not from some promised afterlife, where, finally, everything will be tolerable. It is about living one’s life fully, so that when you reach the endgame you are ready, fulfilled, and feel that you have made some contribution that has been ultimately satisfying. Here is the text and translation to “Mein Leben hat kein ander Ziel” (recitative) and “Willkommen! Will ice sagen” from Cantata No. 27. This wonderful performance begins at 4:40, the aria at 5:00, but you may just want to listen to all of it.


2. Recitative T
Mein Leben hat kein ander Ziel,
Als daß ich möge selig sterben
Und meines Glaubens Anteil erben;
Drum leb ich allezeit
Zum Grabe fertig und bereit,
Und was das Werk der Hände tut,
Ist gleichsam, ob ich sicher wüßte,
Daß ich noch heute sterben müßte:
Denn Ende gut, macht alles gut!
2. Recitative T
My life has no other goal,
than that I might die happy
and inherit my faith’s portion;
Therefore I live constantly
prepared and ready for the grave,
and whatever deeds my hands might do
are the same to me, as if I knew for sure
that even today I must die:
for to end well, makes everything well!
3. Arie A
Willkommen! will ich sagen,
Wenn der Tod ans Bette tritt.
Fröhlich will ich folgen,
wenn er ruft,
In die Gruft,
Alle meine Plagen
Nehm ich mit.
3. Aria A
Welcome! I will say
when Death steps to my bed.
I will joyfully follow,
when he calls,
into the tomb,
I will take all my troubles
with me.

Michael Barrett

Michael Barrett is the co-founder and associate artistic director of New York Festival of Song, as well as the co-founder and music director of the Moab Music Festival in Utah. A conductor and a pianist, Michael was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein and serves as music advisor to the Leonard Bernstein Estate.


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