JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)
Sheep Safely Graze, from Cantata 208 for soprano, two flutes, and continuo
April 3, 2016: Ying Fang, soprano; Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway, flutes; Nicholas Canellakis, cello; Paolo Bordignon, harpsichord
Bach wrote secular cantatas for aristocratic patrons to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, name days, and accession days, or for academic ceremonies. He wrote one of his most famous, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd! (What pleases me is above all the lively hunt), BWV 208, on a text by Weimar court poet Salomo Franck for the birthday of Duke Christian Weissenfels in 1713. Known as the Hunt Cantata, it contains “Schafe können sicher weiden,” the well-known aria for Pales, second soprano to Diana, goddess of the hunt. For centuries listeners have been captivated by its texture of rocking parallel thirds for two flutes—the quintessential pastoral instrument—accompanying the tender main melody, which praises Duke Christian for ruling his people as a good shepherd.
© Jane Vial Jaffe
Text and Translation
Schafe können sicher weiden,
Wo ein guter Hirte wacht.
Wo Regenten wohl regieren,
Kann man Ruh und Friede spüren
Und was Länder glücklich macht.
Sheep may safely graze
where a good shepherd watches.
Where rulers are governing well,
one may feel rest and peace
and what makes countries happy.