Von der Vernügsamkeit

Johann Sebastian Bach

Von der Vernügsamkeit

BWV204 • “Ich bin in mir vergnügt”

About this work

One of Bach's lesser-known cantatas, this work was evidently written in 1726 or 1727 for the regular concerts of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig. This was an organization associated with the University of Leipzig that gave concerts during the summer months at an outdoor coffee garden and in other seasons in a coffee house. Bach was its musical director.

It is an unusually demanding solo cantata for soprano, with orchestra of strings, flute, oboes, bassoon, and harpsichord. The text is a poem by Christian Friedrich Hunold (who wrote under the name "Menantes"). Its subject is contentment, and the title of the cantata (from its opening line) means "I am happy in myself."

The style of the music is that of an Italian solo cantata, virtually a concerto for voice and orchestra. It is in eight sections, with a recitative preceding each of four arias; the final recitative also has an arioso. Each of the arias also features an obbligato instrumental part to go with the florid writing of the aria.

This work is classed as a secular cantata, since it has no specifically Christian content. Nevertheless, it is a philosophical work directed to the topic of what constitutes a moderate, contented life, with homilies such as "One must find pearls of contentment within oneself," "Heaven ever communes with him who can be rich in poverty," and "May my soul be contented however God ordains it."