Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


A Cup of Jo(hann): Bach’s Coffee Cantata

Cup of coffee with Bach on it


“If I can’t, three times a day,
Be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
In my anguish I will turn into
A dried-up roast goat.”

This is the lament heard in Johann Sebastian Bach’s secular cantata BWV 211, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht [Be still, stop chattering], which is better known as the Coffee Cantata.

In this little comic cantata, a father bemoans the fact that his daughter cannot live without coffee.  He tries to find a way to persuade her to stop drinking it.  She agrees to quit if he can find a suitable husband, but she exacts a promise from her suitors that she will be permitted to continue to drink coffee.  She sings,

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
Lovelier than a thousand kisses,
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I must have coffee,
And, if someone wants to delight me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift.

This coffee commercial brought to you by Zimmermann’s coffee house.

Bach actually had a gig in a coffee house, in fact, Zimmermann’s.  He directed a small ensemble, the collegium musicum that met regularly at Zimmermann’s and played for the customers.  Can you imagine sitting there drinking your coffee and listening to Bach play?  This ensemble, with evolving membership, had been playing in Leipzig for years, and had previously been led by Kuhnau and Telemann(!)

Here is a full performance of the Coffee Cantata conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

You can see the German lyrics and English translation here.

So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a break with Bach!


Image attributions:  Image of coffee cup By lual (Open Clip Art Library image’s page) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Image of J. S. Bach.  Artist unknown, [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Mashup by C. Gallant.