Cantata BWV 208 'Was mir behagt' (includes 'Sheep may Safely Graze')
Johann Sebastian Bach


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The first of Bach's 12 entries is a faller: his Cantata No.208 has slipped down 22 places

Although best known for 'Sheep May Safely Graze', this particular work is described as Bach's Hunting Cantata a reference to its secular subject matter.

Its beacon aria is the ninth movement, 'Schafe konnen sicher weiden'. To explain that line, sheep may graze safely where there's a good shepherd who stays awake and where there's a good nobleman watching over a blissful nation. Why did Bach set such a line? Well, because he was writing this music for the birthday of Duke Christian in 1713 and he knew which side his bread was buttered. The commission also gives rise to its third name, the Birthday Cantata.

Shepherd and Sheep by Henri-Edmond Cross.