O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort

BWV 513 performed by Charles Daniels,
Menno van Delft, Mieneke van der Velden and Fred Jacobs
at the Bartolotti House, Amsterdam

Behind the music

Story
Story
Extra videos
Extra videos
Texts
Texts
Credits
Credits

Bach rewrites Bach

Make sure you are awake when your eternity begins!

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort forms the musical ending to the second Notenbüchlein. The chorale is followed only by texts: a wedding poem, ‘a few lines’ for basso continuo and the complete words to the ‘Tobackspfeife’ aria, BWV 515. O Ewigkeit, du Donnertwort is a two-part transcription of Johann Sebastian’s four-part chorale O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 397, in the handwriting of Anna Magdalena. The awe-inspiring hymn itself had been sung since 1653. The lyricist Johann Rist wrote no fewer than 16 verses about the finite earth versus the infinite heaven. The moral was that captivity and torment will pass, so make sure you are awake when your eternity begins.

The Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach
Shortly after their arrival in Leipzig in 1723, Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena Bach revealed themselves as a cultural power couple. Although Anna Magdalena gave up her successful public singing career, she joined her husband in running a thriving music business, alongside looking after a large and growing family. We have at least two tangible traces of their married life in the form of two Notenbüchlein from 1722 and 1725.

Whereas the first Notenbüchlein was still a sort of notebook, containing things like early versions of five ‘French Suites’ (and who knows what else, as two-thirds of the pages are missing), the second one was definitely intended as a gift from Johann Sebastian to his wife. In fair copy, he notated two Partitas and all sorts of other music of Anna Magdalena’s own choosing, such as the aria from the Goldberg Variations and the song Dir, dir Jehova, BWV 452, as well as music by composers like Couperin and Anna Magdalena’s stepson Carl Philipp Emanuel. Together, the Notenbüchlein form a colourful mix of arias, chorales and suites.

BWV
513
Title
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort
Instrument
Tenor
Genre
songs and arias
Serie
Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach
Year
1725
City
Köthen/Leipzig

Extra videos

Tenor Charles Daniels

“Tenor Charles Daniels talks about the Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach.”

Vocal texs

Original

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort,
O Schwert, das durch die Seele bohrt,
O Anfang sonder Ende!
O Ewigkeit, Zeit ohne Zeit,
Ich weiß für großer Traurigkeit
Nicht, wo ich mich hinwende!
Mein ganz erschrocknes Herz erbebt,
Daß mir die Zung am Gaumen klebt

Kein Unglück ist in aller Welt,
Das endlich mit der Zeit nicht fällt
Und ganz wird aufgehoben.
Die Ewigkeit nur hat kein Ziel,
Sie treibet fort und fort ihr Spiel,
Läßt nimmer ab zu toben.
Ja, wie mein Heiland selber spricht:
Aus ihr ist kein Erlösung nicht.

O Ewigkeit, du machst mir bang,
O ewig, ewig ist zu lang,
Hie gilt fürwahr kein Scherzen!
Drüm, wenn ich diese lange Nacht
Zusamt der großen Pein betracht,
Erschreck ich recht von Herzen.
Nichts ist zu finden weit und breit
So schrecklich als die Ewigkeit.

Was acht ich Wasser, Feur und Schwert
Dies alles ist kaum nennenswert,
Es kann nicht lange dauren.
Was wär es, wenn gleich ein Tyrann,
Der funfzig Jahr kaum leben kann,
Mich endlich ließ vermauren?
Gefängnis, Marter, Angst und Pein
Die können ja nicht ewig sein.

Wach auf, o Mensch, vom Sündenschlaf,
Ermuntre dich, verlornes Schaf,
Und bessre bald dein Leben!
Wach auf, es ist doch hohe Zeit,
Es kommt heran die Ewigkeit,
Dir deinen Lohn zu geben!
Vielleicht ist heut der letzte Tag,
Wer weiß noch, wie man sterben mag?

Laß doch die Wollust dieser Welt,
Pracht, Hoffart, Reichtum, Ehr und Geld
Dir länger nicht gebieten!
Schau an die große Sicherheit,
Die falsche Welt und böse Zeit
Zusamt des Teufels Wüten!
Vor allen Dingen hab in acht
Die vorerwähnte lange Nacht!

O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort,
O Schwert, das durch die Seele bohrt,
O Anfang sonder Ende!
O Ewigkeit, Zeit ohne Zeit,
Ich weiß vor großer Traurigkeit
Nicht, wo ich mich hinwende.
Nimm du mich, wenn es dir gefällt,
Herr Jesu, in dein Freudenzelt!

Translation

Eternity, you thundrous word,
Piercing the soul sharp as a sword,
Begun but never ending!
Eternity, you timeless time,
Where can I flee, where can I climb
From sorrow's greatest rending?
My heart is deep in terror led;
My mouth is stopped in speechless dread.

There’s no misfortune on earth here
That does not someday disappear,
Time takes away our sorrows.
Eternity will never end,
All time and space it will transcend.
No end to its tomorrows.
Just as my Savior said indeed:
None can escape eternity.

Eternity, my fear is strong
Eternity is far too long,
One cannot take it lightly!
Thinking of night that never ends
And all the pain which that portends,
My heart is truly troubled.
Nothing you search for far and wide
Could spark such fear as endless time.

Who would fear water, sword, or flame
These terrors are not worth the name;
They only last a season.
What if the tyrant of my fears,
Who can live scarcely fifty years,
Should throw me into prison?
Jail, persecution, terror, pain
None of these earthly trials remain.

Awake, mankind, from sin’s deep sleep,
Build up your courage, you lost sheep,
Repent without delaying.
Wake up, the time is nearly here,
Eternity is drawing near,
For good and ill repaying.
Perhaps today you’ll say goodbye:
For who can know which day they’ll die?

Lay all the world’s desires aside:
Kingdom, wealth, splendor, honor, pride,
No longer let them tempt you!
Keep their sure ruin clear in mind,
This faithless world and evil time,
And Satan’s dark contempt, too.
Above all things keep this in sight:
The long-forewarned and endless night.

Eternity, you thundrous word,
Piercing the soul sharp as a sword
Begun but never ending!
Eternity, you timeless time,
Where can I flee, where can I climb
From sorrow's greatest rending?
Take me, Lord, when my time has come,
In joy to your own heav'nly home.

translation © Ruth van Baak Griffioen, 2016, 2020

Credits

  • Release date
    9 July 2020
  • Recording date
    12 May 2018
  • Location
    Bartolotti House, Amsterdam
  • Tenor
    Charles Daniels
  • Organ
    Menno van Delft
  • Viola da gamba
    Mieneke van der Velden
  • Theorbo
    Fred Jacobs
  • Director, camera and lights
    Gijs Besseling
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera, lights
    Nina Badoux
  • Camera and lighting assistant
    Eline Eestermans
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Acknowledgement
    Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds
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