O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit

Johann Sebastian Bach

O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit


About this work

This is one of the two secular wedding cantatas by Bach that survive intact (out of four that he is known to have written. The more famous of the pair is listed as BWV 202, "Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten," which is usually referred to as The Wedding Cantata.

The origins of this music are somewhat mysterious. Out source is a set of parts written out by Bach and his student Johann Friedrich Agricola. These include a "short score" of the entire piece is beautiful calligraphy and wrapped in silk, obviously intended as a wedding souvenir for the newlyweds. From this is has been surmised that the couple were from prominent Leipzig families. Analysis of Bach's handwriting in this autographs suggests they were written around 1740. However, there is evidence that the entire cantata might have been composed ten years or more earlier, and only given a new set of words at the time of the wedding in question. This was a common practice, particularly if the original music was written for some other secular occasion. The text in the final version was probably "Picander" (pen name for Christian Friedrich Henrici), a favorite Leipzig poet.

The text was suite to please Bach: music itself is seen as an allegory for a functional marriage, and meditates on the relationship between music and love. There is some philosophical discussion of the nature of music and of marital love. The next to last number directly addresses the bridegroom, expressing a hope that the man will remain a true patron of music. (This was Bach's commercial for later assignments!) Finally, the last chorus wishes joy for the new couple.) However, the main subject of the cantata remains music itself, and gives Bach much opportunity for technical display and florid, expressive melody.