Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde (Joyful time in the new
covenant), BWV 83, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He wrote it in 1724 in Leipzig for the
feast Mariae Reinigung (Purification of Mary) and first
performed it on 2 February 1724.
Bach wrote the cantata in his first year in Leipzig for
the feast Purification of Mary. The prescribed readings
for the feast day were from the book of Malachi, "the
Lord will come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1–4), and from
the Gospel of Luke, the purification of Mary and the
presentation of Jesus at the Temple, including Simeon's
canticle Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:22–32). The gospel
mentions the purification of Mary, but elaborates on
Simeon who had been told he would not die without
having seen the Messiah. Simeon's canticle Nunc
dimittis ("Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in
peace") is a constant part of the services Compline and
Evensong. The unknown poet also concentrates on this
aspect of the gospel and connects it to the listener's
attitude to his own death. In movement 2 he comments
the words of the canticle "Herr, nun lässest du deinen
Diener in Friede fahren" by recitative. He shapes
movement 3 as a close paraphrase of Hebrews 4:16.
Movement 4 recalls the last verse of the gospel, the
closing chorale expresses the same thought in Martin
Luther's words, the fourth stanza of his chorale "Mit
Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin".
The cantata was Bach's first cantata for the occasion.
He first performed it on 2 February 1724 and again in
1727. In 1725 he composed a chorale cantata Mit Fried
und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125, on Luther's German
version of the Canticle of Simeon, in 1727 he wrote his
famous solo cantata Ich habe genung, BWV 82.
The first da capo aria is richly scored for the full
orchestra. Its first section celebrates the "joyful
time". The ritornell presents a first motif in upward
coloraturas, which is later picked up by the voice,
then playful contrasting "choirs" of instruments, and
virtuoso figuration of the solo violin. In great
contrast the middle section concentrates on "our
resting place, our grave", the violin imitating funeral
bells by repetitions on open strings.
Movement 2 is singular in Bach's cantatas. It contains
the canticle of Simeon, sung by the bass on the eighth
psalm tone of Gregorian chant, while a canon is played
by all strings in unison and the continuo. After the
first verse of the canticle, three sections of secco
recitative are interrupted by the canonic music,
finally the other two verses of the canticle are
treated as the first. The use of psalm tones was
already considered an archaism in Bach's time.
In Movement 3 the concertante violin plays endless runs
in triplets, to illustrate "Hurry, heart, full of joy",
the voice imitates the runs. A short secco recitative
leads to the four-part chorale. Bach had used this
chorale already in his early funeral cantata Actus
tragicus (1707 or 1708).
Although originally scored for alto, tenor and bass
soloists, a four-part choir in the chorale, two horns,
two oboes, solo violin, two violins, viola, and basso
continuo, I created this arrangement for String
Ensemble (5 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello).