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Today we present the first two movements from a cantata about Jesus’ promise of a Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Craig Smith writes:
Jesus’ predictions of what would happen to the church and how his followers would deal with matters of faith after his departure are mostly dealt with in the Gospel of John. These difficult and sometimes esoteric concepts are the basis for most of the Sundays between Easter and the Ascension. The Sunday called Cantate has one of the thorniest readings in the whole lectionary. Marianne von Ziegler uses two extensive quotes from the designated passage from the gospel of John as the cornerstone of her text for the Cantata BWV 108.
The work begins with an elaborate aria for bass, oboe d’amore and strings. In it Jesus tells the disciples that it is good that he is leaving them; that only with his absence can the Holy Spirit be there. …The oboe d’amore takes the lead with an elegant extremely flexible line, so highly ornamented and unpredictable in its direction that the accompanying strings can hardly keep up. By the third bar the opening statement has become mysterious and attenuated. It becomes progressively clear that the melody represents the Holy Spirit, something undefinable and later on clearly characterized [in the KJV] as “for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” This concept of the Holy Spirit as something that is a reflection of those who perceive it is central not only to the imagery of this cantata, but also to the very structure of the music.
It is good for you that I should go away;
for if I do not go away
the comforter will not come to you.
But if I go
I shall send him to you.
The opening bass aria is followed by an aria for tenor with a powerful, wide-ranging violin accompaniment in which the disciple responds with a statement of trust.
No doubt can disturb me
from hearing your word, Lord.
I believe, if you go away
then I can be comforted
that among the redeemed
I shall come to the haven I long for.