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 prescribed readings for the Sunday
were taken from the Epistle to the Romans, love
completes the law (Romans 13:810), and from the Gospel
of Matthew, Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8:2327).
The poet is unknown, but Erdmann Neumeister and
Christian Weiss have been suggested by scholars. The
poet refers to the Gospel and expands on the contrast
of Jesus hidden (sleeping) and appearing (acting),
similar to Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange? BWV 155,
written in 1716 and performed three weeks earlier on
the First Sunday after Epiphany. The words of movement
4 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?). The closing
chorale is the second stanza of Johann Franck's hymn
"Jesu, meine Freude".
Bach expresses the questions of the anxious "soul" in a
dramatic way, similar to dialogues such as in O
Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60. This, the fourth aria
"Schweig, aufgetürmtes Meer!" (Quiet, heaving sea!),
marked allegro, contrasts the "storm", in unison runs
of the strings, with calmer motion in the oboes.
Bach composed a similar symmetry around a biblical word
in 1726 in Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39.
Although originally scored for two oboes d'amore, two
violins, viola, and basso continuo, I created this
arrangement for Woodwind Trio (Flute, Oboe & Bassoon) &
Strings (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).