Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen? (Jesus sleeps, what
shall I hope for?), BWV 81, is a church cantata by
Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in 1724 in
Leipzig for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany and first
performed it on 30 January 1724.
Bach wrote the cantata in his first year in Leipzig for
the fourth Sunday after Epiphany A fourth Sunday after
Epiphany is rare and occurs only in years with a late
date of Easter. The words of this aria are a quote from
the Gospel, the question of Jesus: "Ihr Kleingläubigen,
warum seid ihr so furchtsam?" (Why are ye fearful, O ye
of little faith?).
Bach expresses the questions of the anxious "soul" in a
dramatic way, similar to dialogues such as in O
Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60. The central movement 4
within a symmetrical arrangement is devoted to the bass
as the vox Christi (voice of Christ). The continuo and
the voice use similar material in this arioso,
intensifying the words.
Bach composed a similar symmetry around a biblical word
in 1726 in Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39.
Although originally scored for bass soloist and basso
continuo, I created this arrangement for Viola & Cello.