Bist du bei mir
Recording can be a grueling enterprise, particularly when attempting to capture complete live recordings of very transparent music for solo voice and lute. Our venue is a beautiful spacious church that compliments our quiet music very nicely, but even the most serene space and the best acoustic is subject to the crashbang assault of the sounds of modern life when it is situated in an urban setting. Interruptions are manifold, and in our attempt to capture complete performances of pieces, we are forced to begin again and again and again.
During a session last Wednesday, we found ourselves reaching the limit with a late medieval piece—an extremely wordy and endless text that barely offered space for the occasional breath coupled with an equally relentless lute part. The neighborhood was hopping that particular evening with trains, motorcycles, heavy truck traffic, lawnmowers and, ironically, unexpected church bells. Frustration was mounting and diversion was necessary.
We find that a sure cure in such cases is to play a piece we have not seen in a long while to divert our attention from the problems at hand. In this case, the piece was “Bist du bei mir” from the 1725 Anna Magdalena Bach notebook. Formerly attributed to J. S. Bach, the popular air is now firmly attributed to Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, from his opera Diomedes, oder die triumphierende Unschuld, performed in Bayreuth on November 16, 1718. While the music of Bach is several generations outside the bounds of our usual repertory, we have been asked to perform the air on several occasions, and we keep it handy as an encore piece when appropriate.
As it turned out, the traffic died down and the fates were with us as we slipped into what is nearly the opposite mood of the piece that had been giving us grief. You can hear the result here.