Bach, J. S.: BWV 202, ‘Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten’ (Wedding Cantata)

Were it not for the efforts of a student named Rinck who copied out Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten in 1730, it probably would have been lost, like countless other Bach works, to the wrapping of fish (or some other, similar, use of the valuable paper).  The Cantata No. 202 was composed for a marriage, most likely while Bach was serving as Kapellmeister for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, for whom he wrote much of his secular music.

The cantata is in nine parts. Each odd-numbered section is an aria and each even-numbered section a recitative, they trace the rebirth of love with of the rebirth of spring.  Each movement has a different instrumentation, and a different scheme the dramatization of a pastoral element and the connection of that element with a theme of love. The first aria, with a rising arpeggios and a combination of darkening and lightening harmonies, asks the forces of winter to ease. The second aria, using only the continuo instruments, pictures Apollo driving powerfully through the sky and re-discovering for himself the delights of spring. The third aria uses the violin to describe the motion of the warm wind through fields and also the motion of Amor through the warming fields, seeking his own amorous goals.  The fourth aria brings the idea of love further to the front — setting love’s pleasures ahead of spring’s passing pleasures.  The last movement is a simple valedictory Gavotte for the lovers, wishing them ‘a thousand bright and prosperous days’ (almost three years’ worth!), and presenting their love as owning its own spring in the image of a flower… a metaphorical spring which of course brings with it the renewal of thoughts, forces, gods, and motions of love.

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