Willst du dein Herz mir schenken

Willst du dein Herz mir schenken

BWV 518 performed by Griet De Geyter,
Lucia Swarts, Fred Jacobs and Siebe Henstra
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Who was Giovanni?

The notation of this simple song raises many questions

The Notenbüchlein for Anna Magdalena Bach is a collection of different sorts of music by several composers. Besides pieces for harpsichord – preludes, partitas and various dances – it also includes a series of songs. Some are more spiritual in character and others more secular.

This song, Willst du dein Herz mir schenken, belongs in the latter category. It is a love song in four strophes, in which the singer asks her lover to keep their love hidden and unspoken, because ‘being too free and feeling confident has already led often to danger” and now, too, “a false eye” is watching. In short, “the passion we enjoy must be a secret”. It is clearly a case of a hidden or forbidden love. A young couple with strict parents? An extramarital affair? Or maybe a lesbian romance? As it conjures up all sorts of situations, the song fits well in a wider context, as in this performance, where it is combined with Bach’s Quodlibet, among other pieces.

There is anyway a mysterious side to the song itself. On a blank page preceding the notes, it is called the “Aria di Giovannini”. Although the identity of Giovanni is not certain, he may have been the Count of Saint Germain, an itinerant musician and storyteller who used several names and titles. In any case, it is notable that we cannot discover the identity of the person who notated this song in the Notenbüchlein. Bach researchers have been able to recognise the hands of nearly all the other contributors and link them to someone from the Bach family or the Bach circle. The German words to the song are not written in German script, and this song is the only one in the book to use the treble clef for the singing part (rather than the usual soprano clef). Could Saint Germain have been the composer? Or even the copyist? It turns out that a simple song can raise many questions.

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, 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.

Aria di G[i]ovannini / Willst du dein Herz mir schenken
songs and arias
Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach

Extra videos

Tenor Charles Daniels

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

Vocal texts


Willst du dein Herz mir schenken,
so fang es heimlich an,
dass unser beider Denken
niemand erraten kann.
Die Liebe muss bei beiden
allzeit verschwiegen sein,
drum schließ die größten Freuden
in deinem Herzen ein.

Behutsam sei und schweige
und traue keiner Wand,
lieb' innerlich und zeige
dich außen unbekannt.
Kein Argwohn musst du geben,
Verstellung nötig ist,
genug, dass du, mein Leben,
der Treu' versichert bist.

Begehre keine Blicke
von meiner Liebe nicht,
der Neid hat viele Stricke
auf unser Tun gericht.
Du musst die Brust verschließen,
halt deine Neigung ein,
die Lust, die wir genießen,
muss ein Geheimnis sein.

Zu frei sein, sicher gehen,
hat oft Gefahr gebracht.
Man muss sich wohl verstehen,
weil ein falsch Auge wacht.
Du musst den Spruch bedenken,
den ich zuvor getan:
Willst du dein Herz mir schenken,
so fang es heimlich an.


If you your heart would give me
Hide it from light of day,
So that our thoughts within us
Nobody can betray.
The love we have between us
Must always silent be,
So keep your joys, the keenest,
In your heart quietly.

Remain on guard, be silent,
And trust no wall as safe,
Keep your love purely private
Show nothing on your face.
Give no grounds for suspicion,
Appearance give its due,
So may it be sufficient
To know, my life, I’m true.

Desire no loving glances
For gestures have no need,
For envy soon entrances
Our every thought and deed.
In your heart our love treasure,
Control all tendencies,
Our own dear private pleasure,
Must please us secretly.

To go about too freely
Has often danger brought.
One must behave discreetly
False eyes are on the watch.
Consider, then, this saying,
As I have, carefully:
If you your heart would give me,
Then do it secretly.

translation © Ruth van Baak Griffioen, 2021


  • Release date
    4 August 2022
  • Recording date
    10 October 2020
  • Location
    TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht
  • Soprano
    Griet De Geyter
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Theorbo
    Fred Jacobs
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Theatre concept, direction and design
    Thomas Höft
  • Film director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee, Rob Strolenberg
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Wesley Schipper, Wouter Revier, Jochem Timmermans, Chiel Hooijman
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Assistant film director
    Ferenc Soeteman
  • Set technique
    Justin Mutsaerts
  • Project manager nep
    Ron Vermeulen
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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