Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 170, "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust," BWV 170 (BC A106)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    During his years as Kapellmeister at Cöthen (1717-1722), J.S. Bach was given a respite from the task, central to any Lutheran church musician, of composing sacred cantatas; but when he was appointed Cantor in the city of Leipzig in 1723, he immediately set about composing cantatas at an astonishing rate. The job demanded that he produce a cantata for every Sunday and for each important feast day in the liturgical year. Bach didn't always find time to write completely new cantatas, but still, the ink spent between 1723 and 1729 on cantatas would fill several vats. One of the highlights of the third "cycle" of Leipzig cantatas, which Bach worked on between 1725 and 1727, is the chamber cantata Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170, a setting of texts by G.C. Lehms (a Lutheran poet who was born one year before Bach and died at the age of 33, nine years before Bach wrote BWV 170) scored for just a single contralto soloist and small orchestra.

    Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, which translates as Pleasant Rest, Beloved Soul's Joy and was composed for use on the sixth Sunday after Trinity, is essentially three large arias for contralto, between which are placed two "Rezitativs." The first aria, "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust," is in da capo form, and tells, by way of rich music that throbs with inner passion (just listen to the string rhythms, which resemble those used at the start of Jean Sibelius' warm Symphony No. 2), that "pleasant rest" can be attained only through union with Heaven.

    The second aria, "Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen" (How I Lament for Those Whose Hearts Have Gone Wrong), inhabits a world utterly different from that of the first; it is thinly textured and full of pointed, sharp articulations -- and, most importantly, there is no real bass line, this absence indicating, according to some, the lack of a guiding force in the lives of the poor lost souls spoken of in the text.

    In "Mir ekelt mehr zu leben" (Life Disgusts Me), the third and final aria (again a da capo aria), the contralto asks to be released from the bonds of life so that she might know everlasting life at "the dwelling-house in which [she] can find peace."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust
    2. Die Welt, das Sündenhaus, bricht nur im Hollenlieder aus
    3. Wie jammern nich doch die verkehrten Herzen
    4. Wer sollte sich demnach wohl hier zu leben wünschen
    5. Mir ekelt, mehr zu leben

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Alpha 343
    2017 Hyperion CDA 68111
    2017 Harmonia Mundi HMM 907589
    2016 Erato 0190295925338
    2016 Claves 501107
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMG 502016
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2015 J.S. Bach-Stiftung B 237CD
    2014 Claudio CR 51542
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMC 971644
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94947BR
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792557
    2013 Warner Classics 381159
    2013 Teldec 671897
    2012 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon 4790377
    2012 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Quintone Q 08007
    2012 Virgin Classics / Warner Classics 5099923229
    2012 Zig Zag Territoires ZIG 305
    2011 Elatus
    2011 Analekta AN 29878
    2011 Warner Classics 674146
    2011 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290845859
    2010 Fazer / Finlandia
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2009 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099923547
    2009 SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) 156
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 902016
    2009 Vanguard Classics 195
    2008 Hyperion CDH55312
    2008 Challenge Classics 72282
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 L'Oiseau-Lyre 4758726
    2007 BIS 1621
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2006 Virgin 63281
    2005 Naxos 8557621
    2005 Archiv Produktion 000468902
    2004 Decca 4762684
    2004 Challenge Records 72216
    2004 Arts Music 47694
    2003 Virgin
    2001 Haenssler 92563
    2001 CD Accord 033
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2981644
    2000 Haenssler 92051
    2000 Amadeus 7010
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 61397
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Finlandia 25325
    1999 London 430260
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2951644
    1999 Teldec 3984-25709-2
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2908091/95
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 901644
    1996 RCA 902662655
    1996 Haenssler 98804
    1995 Capriccio Records 10523
    1994 Teldec 4509-91763-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1993 Teldec 4509-92627-2
    1989 Hyperion 66326
    American Bach Soloists
    Brilliant 99703/2
    Brilliant Classics 99703
    Brilliant 93102/48
    Brilliant Classics 93102-VOL3
    Vanguard Classics 8106
    RCA 62655
    Haenssler