God `s time is the best time Essay


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Actus Tragicus . Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit ("God's time is the best of times"), BWV 106, also known as Actus Tragicus, is a religious cantata by Jean-Sebastien Bach composed in Mühlhausen between September 1707 and June 1708. It was one of Bach's first cantatas, composed when Bach was probably no more than twenty-two years old. However, this cantata ranks among the most important of his works. Directly inspired by biblical texts, it has a depth of great intensity. Alfred Dürr described this cantata as "the work of a genius such that even the greatest masters rarely succeed ... the Actus Tragicus belongs to the highest musical literature in the world." The cantata is written for small ensemble: two recorders, two viola da gamba and basso continuo with four solo voices, soprano, viola, tenor and bass. The theme of the cantata is death, presented in a first part in accordance with the Old Testament: Man must die, at the time chosen by God and prepare for it by practicing the order and wisdom.


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The funeral of Dorothea Susanne Tilesius, the sister of Pastor Eilmar, is also mentioned; ceremony held June 3, 1708, but according to A. Dürr this date is too late given the style of the cantata. The style of the cantata is rooted in the tradition of seventeenth-century German Baroque cantatas, such as those of Buxtehude or Schütz, and spiritual concerts constructed as a mosaic of sections, each dealing with a specific text. Bach would then adopt, only a few years later, the airy and recitative cutting of the "Italian" style of church cantatas. However, the more abundant use of the choral than in its predecessors, already distinguishes the style of Bach; the choir will always be an important and structuring element of Bach's religious production. Similarly, the particular attention to musically illustrating the spiritual meaning of the text, which will always be an element of Bach's musical style, is already present at the highest degree of inspiration. The "archaic" character of this cantata is also found in the instrumentation, unique in the abundant production of Bach cantatas: two recorders, two leg violas and an organ, giving the 'the whole of the work a character of gentleness and appeasement, somewhat in contradiction with the apocryphal title of Actus tragicus.


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Man must prepare for it, "put his house in order" (Bestelle dein Haus) and apply himself to wisdom (auf dass klug werden). The end of the first part prepares for the "new covenant", announcing the arrival of Jesus (Herr Jesu, komm). The second part exposes the "new covenant", made possible by the coming and the death of Christ. His death (“I put my spirit into your hands” (“In deine Hände”) is one of the last words of Christ) is paralleled with that of Man: just as the death of Christ opens towards redemption (Du hast mich erlöset), the death of man leads to his resurrection in Paradise (Heute wirst du mit mir in Paradies sein). Death, having a spiritual meaning, can be accepted with peace and joy (Song of Simeon, by the chorale Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin: "In peace and in joy I go away"). The cantata ends with a Gloria in a version by Adam Reusner. Chiasmatic structure of the work: . This cantata was taken up in 1874 by César Franck.


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