Bach is not a composer known for his lively sense of humour (unless you like obscure mathematical jokes involving making codes out of people’s names and setting them to music, in which case you’ll probably find him an absolute scream). Indeed, the first allegedly humourous piece of his that I heard was an obscure cantata using Greek myth to express the fact that he was a much better musician than one of his rivals, who pretty much had donkey’s ears. This sort of thing is extremely amusing, when your name is Johann Sebastian…
But he was, apparently, capable of more generally intelligible light moments, and he wrote, as it happens, an entire cantata about coffee. What could be more appropriate for a Monday morning?
The singer of this aria is Rosemarie Hoffmann, a soprano I have not previously heard of, but I will clearly have to amend this, as she has a lovely voice and I do like what she does with this (the only downside is that we can’t see the staging). Here is what she is singing about:
|Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süße,
Lieblicher als tausend Küsse,
Milder als Muskatenwein.
Coffee, Coffee muß ich haben,
Und wenn jemand mich will laben,
Ach, so schenkt mir Coffee ein!
|Oh! How sweet coffee tastes,
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Sweeter than Muscatel wine
Coffee, coffee I must have
And if someone wishes to give me a treat
Ah, then give me some coffee!
The cantata tells the story of a father whose daughter is so addicted to coffee that he resolves to stop her drinking it – he threatens to prevent her from going out (she prefers coffee), forbids her to buy new dresses (she can live with that), and eventually tells her that she must either give up coffee or the prospect of marriage. This turns out to be a sticking point for Lieschen – she wants a husband, today if possible, and will give up coffee to get one… and then she makes sure that her access to coffee is written into the marriage contract. In the version I saw last year, Lieschen manages to marry the owner of a coffee shop, with whom she has been flirting since the start of the cantata, as the father rolls his eyes in exasperation.
A final trio provides the moral of this story:
|Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht,
Die Jungfern bleiben Coffeeschwestern.
Die Mutter liebt den Coffeebrauch,
Die Großmama trank solchen auch,
Wer will nun auf die Töchter lästern!
|The cat won’t stop catching mice,
and maidens remain faithful to their coffee.
The mother holds her coffee dear,
The grandmother drank it also,
Who can thus rebuke the daughters!
The cantata goes for 25 minutes, which is perhaps a trifle long for a work morning, but if you would like to see a rather appealing semi-staged version of the production, I can recommend this one, by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. A translation of the lyrics can be found here.
May your morning contain all the coffee you need to get through your day!