Bach Cantata BWV 57 is an unusual work. Written in his third year in Leipzig, the work is nominally for the second day of Christmas. It has virtually nothing of either the Christmas story or spirit about it. It is much more suited to the sobriety of the Lenten period. The work is one of several that are in the form of dialogue between Christ and the Soul. In this work the anxious soul is given comfort by Christ who is here more military and spiritual leader.
The opening, dense aria for strings and winds presents Christ at his most imposing and, in a way, forbidding. The long phrases are sinuous and in some ways tortured. The soul answers in a pathetic recitative followed by a stupendous guilt-ridden aria of extraordinary chromatic intensity scored for string orchestra. Christ returns as military commander with a dazzling aria of full of bravura string writing and long and difficult vocal melismas. The soul’s final answer is a bouncy aria with solo violin that projects not only relief but a genuine religious fervor. This superb cantata ends with a harmonization of “Lobe den Herrn,” perhaps the only unequivocally happy thing in the cantata.