Reflections on Bach Cantata 82 ‘Ich habe genug’.

Edward Thornton

Wonderful as the whole of this beautiful bass solo cantata is, I find the first aria exceptionally moving. I love the gentle lilting movemen … surely a dance form. The opening phrase for both voice and oboe, recalls ‘Erbarme dich’ from the St Matthew passion, though here the text takes Simeon’s ‘Nunc Dimittis’ as its inspiration, rather than the abject remorse of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. The cantata expresses the mystical longing to escape this earthly life and for the soul to be united with Jesus, which seems one of the chief characteristics of Lutheran mysticism in the 18th century.

I have always loved this cantata, perhaps partly because, in my youth, I was an oboist, though I never played the wonderful obbligato. I have sung it several times, and the upcoming St Peter’s Singers concert will be my sixth visit. The first time was in Cambridge, when I was at the Royal College of Music. Later a friend from the RCM, Valerie Darke, granddaughter of the composer, Harold Darke, was the very fine oboist, in a performance I organised. I also sang it in Southampton, when the oboist, Geoffrey Bridge, had been my teacher whilst I was principal oboe in Southampton Youth Orchestra.

Edward Thornton is a member of St Peter’s Singers and will be singing Ich habe genug at our concert at Fulneck Moravian Chapel on Bank Holiday Monday 26 August