When, in Germany, in 1713, Duke William Ernest wanted to give fellow German, Duke Christian, a 31st. birthday present, he asked Johann Sebastian Bach, who was working for him at the time, to knock up a little something – suitable for a man who had everything. Duke Christian had decided on a days hunting followed by a ‘Myths and Legends’ party, for his special day. Now, this was no mean request, Duke Christian was a serious patron of the arts (so much so, in fact, that he bankrupted his Dukedom and had to be taken into the 17th century version of administration), so Bach went off to have a chat with his mate Salomon Franck, who wrote poetry in this new cantata thingy which had recently gone viral in the Holy Roman Empire.
A couple of pints of good German beer later and we had ‘The lively hunt is all my heart’s desire‘ (in fluent German of course). This was an entertaining little thing, it included various gods and goddesses and others from Greek mythology, which was all the rage at that time and fitted in rather neatly with the theme of the party. It lasted for nearly an hour and and managed to mention the birthday boy in four different places, in suitable juxtaposition to the various deities.
The bit you’re bound to recognise is the forth aria called ‘Sheep May Safely Graze‘. Try YouTube.
Given his strained financial circumstances, Duke Christian would probably have been quite happy with an M & S voucher.