In next week’s Sunday Cantata, you will be treated to an extraordinary musical experience: a pair of oboes accompanied by a symphony of bells (as rendered by pizzicato strings). The lower strings, cellos and basses, play slow funeral bells, while the upper strings, violins and violas, play faster, more celestial bells. One set to ring good-bye from this world, the other to ring welcome from the world to come.
All to accompany these thoroughly disturbing words:
Ah, strike soon, blessed hour,
The very final stroke of the bell!
Come, come, I reach my hands towards you
Come, make an end to my distress,
You day of death for which I have long sighed!
Disturbing, because in reality most of us don’t feel like that, or even believe that one could or should. We cling to this dear life like a pig to a loaf, as we Finns say. All the while forgetting the apostle’s words—and the fact of the matter—that “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
English translation: Francis Browne
Performance: Bach Collegium Japan (cond. Masaaki Suzuki) and Makuto Sakurada, tenor.