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Coffee Cantata

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Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211

Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be still, stop chattering), BWV 211,[a] also known as the Coffee Cantata, is a secular cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it probably between 1732 and 1735. Although classified as a cantata, it is essentially a miniature comic opera. In a satirical commentary, the cantata amusingly tells of an addiction to coffee.

History and text

Bach regularly directed a musical ensemble based at Zimmermann’s coffee house called a collegium musicum, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann in 1702. The libretto suggests that some people in eighteenth-century Germany viewed coffee drinking as a bad habit. However, the work is likely to have been first performed at the coffee house in Leipzig.
The cantata’s libretto (written by Christian Friedrich Henrici, known as Picander), features lines like “If I couldn’t, three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat”.[1] Bach wrote no operas: the cantata was written for concert performance,[2] but is frequently performed today fully staged with costumes.

Scoring

The work is scored for three vocal soloists in the roles
Narrator, tenor
Schlendrian (literally: Stick in the Mud), bass
Lieschen, his daughter, soprano.
The orchestra consists of flauto traverso, two violins obbligato, viola, cembalo and basso continuo.

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