Oh, you didn’t think we were going to get to Christmas with more Bach, now did you? Of course we weren’t. This is a rather gorgeous alto aria from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, which is basically a lullaby for the baby Jesus. The words translate to ‘Sleep, my beloved, enjoy Your rest, and awaken after this so that all may thrive! Comfort the breast, feel the joy with which we make glad our hearts.’ Because this is Bach, it takes quite a long time for the soloist to say all of this. (Or perhaps the baby just doesn’t want to sleep? Bach did have quite a lot of children, so he was probably familiar with the whole ‘hey you just stopped rocking me and singing to me, this is no good, I’m going to start screaming’ phenomenon. Hmmm… the more I think about this theory, the more I am convinced by it…)
The Christmas Oratorio is actually an oratorio intended to be performed over six days during the Christmas season, and this particular aria, from the Adoration of the Shepherds, falls on the second day. A sneak peek at the various arias over all the six days show me that the alto gets an aria on each of the first three days and a lot of recitative on the fifth day, but is conspicuously absent on New Years Day and the feast of the Epiphany, presumably because she was a party girl who had better things to do on these days (unlike the goody-two-shoes soprano who is present and accounted for on both these days).*
This particular recording is by Ingeborg Danz and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, and it’s just gorgeous, so I’m going to stop providing random commentary and leave you to enjoy it.
* This is probably not true. Or at least, the bit about who was singing on which days is true, but I have no evidence to suggest that the alto soloist wasn’t perfectly well-behaved. I just like to think that she got to go off duty and have a bit of fun on those traditional party days/nights.