J. S. Bach
Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
(“I am content with my good fortune,” BWV 84)

Bach composed this cantata for solo soprano for Septuagesima in 1727. The Gospel reading for this Sunday is the parable of the workers in the vineyard from St. Matthew 20:1–16 . As John Eliot Gardiner notes, in the text to this cantata “there is no mention of the disgruntled work-force, only of being ‘content with my good fortune that dear God bestows on me’.”

The work’s opening aria — a duet with soprano and oboe — expresses this contentment with what may sound like a sense of resignation or wistfulness. But — following a recitative reminding us that even the most meager provision is an undeserved gift — the second aria bursts with effusive gratitude. In his extended commentary on this cantata, Julian Mincham judges it to be “ebullient almost to the point of ecstasy. This is not the expression of resignation; rather it is a depiction of the unabandoned joy resulting from the acceptance of our lot in life with good grace and a full recognition of God’s benefice.”

There follows a second recitative in which the humble circumstances of this life are contrasted with the greatest gift awaiting us after our death. In the concluding chorale, all four vocal parts sing the final stanza from a hymn which affirms confidence in God’s provision for us, in life and in death. The tune is from a chorale by Georg Neumark (1621–1681), to which we sing the hymn “If thou but suffer God to guide thee” (choir recording here, and the text is here).

There are two performances of this cantata embedded below, one is music only, the other is a video recording from a live performance. There is also a short but insightful commentary by conductor Fabio Bonizzoni. He took time off from rehearsing this cantata to talk about how — in the face of suffering — Bach’s music achieves consolation rather than mere distraction.

The complete text to the cantata is below the embedded recordings.

In the first recording, Nancy Argenta is the soprano soloist with Ensemble Sonnerie conducted by Monica Huggett.

This second recording is from the Netherlands Bach Society “All of Bach” project. The soprano soloist is Maria Keohane, with the NBS musicians conducted by Fabio Bonizzoni. In the video at the bottom of this page, Bonizzoni discusses the sense of consolation achieved by Bach in this cantata. (The complete text is below the video.)

I. Aria (soprano)

Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke,
Das mir der liebe Gott beschert.
Soll ich nicht reiche Fülle haben,
So dank ich ihm vor kleine Gaben
Und bin auch nicht derselben wert.

I am content with my good fortune,
That the dear God bestows upon me.
If I shall not have a rich abundance,
So I thank Him for small gifts
And do not deserve even these.

II. Recitative (soprano)

Gott ist mir ja nichts schuldig,
Und wenn er mir was gibt,
So zeigt er mir, dass er mich liebt;
Ich kann mir nichts bei ihm verdienen,
Denn was ich tu, ist meine Pflicht.
Ja! wenn mein Tun gleich noch so gut geschienen, So hab ich doch nichts Rechtes ausgericht’.
Doch ist der Mensch so ungeduldig,
Dass er sich oft betrübt,
Wenn ihm der liebe Gott nicht überflüssig gibt. Hat er uns nicht so lange Zeit
Umsonst ernähret und gekleidt
Und will uns einsten seliglich
In seine Herrlichkeit erhöhn?
Es ist genug vor mich,
Dass ich nicht hungrig darf zu Bette gehn.

God owes me nothing,
And if He gives something to me,
He thus shows me that He loves me.
I myself can earn nothing from him,
As what I am doing is my duty.
Yea! Even if my deeds appear to be good,
I have not accomplished anything that is right.
And yet man is so impatient,
That he is often troubled
If the dear God does not give to him an abundance.
Has He not for a long time
Freely nourished and clothed us,
And will He not one day blessedly
Raise us up into His splendour?
It is sufficient for me
That I do not go to bed hungry.

III. Aria

Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot
Und gönne dem Nächsten von Herzen das Seine.
Ein ruhig Gewissen, ein fröhlicher Geist,
Ein dankbares Herze, das lobet und preist,
vermehret den Segen, verzuckert die Not.

With joy I eat my meagre bread
And truly do not begrudge my neighbour his own.
A calm conscience, a happy spirit,
A grateful heart that praises
Increases the blessing, sweetens the need.

IV. Recitative

Im Schweiße meines Angesichts Will ich indes mein Brot genießen,
Und wenn mein Lebenslauf,
Mein Lebensabend wird beschließen, So teilt mir Gott den Groschen aus, Da steht der Himmel drauf.
O! wenn ich diese Gabe
zu meinem Gnadenlohne habe,
So brauch ich weiter nichts.

In the sweat of my brow
I will meanwhile enjoy my bread,
And when the evening of my life
Will conclude the course of my life,
God will give me my penny’s worth,
Then heaven will stand open.
Oh! If I have this gift
As my reward of mercy,
I shall need nothing more.

V. Chorale

Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget
Und sterb ohn alle Kümmernis,
Mir genüget, wie es mein Gott füget,
Ich glaub und bin es ganz gewiss:
Durch deine Gnad und Christi Blut
Machst du’s mit meinem Ende gut.

Meanwhile I live contentedly in you
And die without any worries,
For me what God ordains is sufficient.
I believe and am quite certain that
Through Your mercy and the blood of Christ
You will make the end of my life good.

Fabio Bonizzoni on how Bach’s music complements the texts