Bist du bei mir -
medium voice and keyboard
du bei mir, geh' ich mit Freuden
zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh'.
Ach, wie vergnügt wär' so mein Ende,
es drückten deine lieben Hände
mir die getreuen Augen zu!
page, circa 1' 30" ]
Michelangelo, from the Sistine Chapel
you be with me, I go with joy
to death and to my rest!
Ah, so pleasant shall be my end,
if your dear hands shut
these faithful eyes!
text is found in the 1725 Notenbuch der Anna Magdalena Bach, with J.
S. Bach's gentle, swaying setting in two parts. I had come across the text
in other reading, and a simple setting came to mind which I sketched
quickly. Among my thoughts was the notion of a simple enough accompaniment
that piano, harpsichord or organ could easily serve without changing the
voicing. In German, closest friends and family as well as pets receive the
second person singular pronoun, reserving the second person plural
grammar for the formal relationship. But equally God is referred to with the
first person singular. Therefore there is a sweet ambiguity to the
text itself, referring to more than one reading.
setting is simple, a four-part choral texture with interior voices moving
against the exterior in chorale fashion. The short phrases in the vocal line
reflect the scansion of the text, and the repetition of the first phrase
insists that the joy and peace come from the presence of the "other."
The score for
Bist du bei mir is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this
Bist du bei mir