Bist du bei mir - (2010)
for medium voice and keyboard
Bist 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!
[ 1 page, circa 1' 30" ]
Michelangelo, from the Sistine Chapel
If 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!
The 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.
The 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 piano-vocal score.
Bist du bei mir