"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

February 12, 2012

Bach Cantatas (10): Sexagesima Sunday (February 12)

Sexagesima is the name for the 2nd Sunday before Ash Wednesday.

Readings: 
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:19 - 12:9, God's power is mighty in the week,
Luke 8:4–15, Parable of the Sower

References:
BCWBDECNLSGJNLVHWPText

Cantatas:
  1. BWV 18 Gleich wie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (Weimar, 1714)

    Sinfonia
    Recitativo (Bass): Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt
    Recitativo & Chorale (Litany) (Soprano, Tenor, Bass, Chorus): Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein
    Aria (Soprano): Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort
    Chorale: Ich bitt, o Herr, aus Herzens Grund


    The cantata opens with a sinfonia in Italian concerto form played only by violas and continuo (like in the 6th Brandenburg Concerto). The jumping melody shows the falling rain and snow, nourishing the earth and the seeds sown there. The dark color of the instruments also symbolizes the stormy weather. The short bass recitative is characterized by word painting on the same theme. The following recitative with interpolated litany by a rather fierce soprano forms the spiritual heart of the cantata and is a very intense movement. The text is a paraphrase from the parable of the sower; the four parts stand for the four different types of soil in the Biblical story. Bach is quite experimental here, take for example the convoluted melisma on the word "Verfolgung." The pretty Italianate soprano aria is again only accompanied by violas, and is a personal reflection; the undulating soundscape imitates the "webs woven by the world and Satan." As conclusion follows the usual chorale. (****)

  2. BWV 181 Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister (Leipzig, 1724)

    Arie Bass: Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister
    Rezitativ Alto: O unglückselger Stand verkehrter Seelen
    Arie Tenor: Der schädlichen Dornen unendliche Zahl
    Rezitativ Soprano: Von diesen wird die Kraft erstickt
    Chor: Laß, Höchster, uns zu allen Zeiten


    A short cantata on the parable of the sower. In the bass aria the "light-minded, frivolous spirits" are symbolized by a bouncy vocal line that seems to go nowhere, and is a good illustration of empty self-satisfaction. In the alto recitative, a theological explanation is given. The music for the obligato instrument of the central tenor aria has unfortunately been lost. The music imitates the "harmful thorns" and "fire of hellish torment" by fast repetitions. In the soprano recitative the seed finally finds good earth. The most beautiful movement comes at the end: a joyful chorus (not a chorale!) that is probably borrowed from a festival cantata, as we also hear a trumpet. Embedded in the chorus is a duet for soprano and alto. (***)

  3. BWV 126 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Leipzig, 1725)

    1. Coro: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
    2. Aria (tenor): Sende deine Macht von oben
    3. Recitativo e chorale (alto, tenor): Der Menschen Gunst und Macht wird wenig nützen – Gott Heiliger Geist, du Tröster wert
    4. Aria (bass): Stürze zu Boden, schwülstige Stolze!
    5. Recitativo (tenor): So wird dein Wort und Wahrheit offenbar
    6. Chorale: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich


    A rather aggressive and militant cantata, calling for protection from the then-enemies, Papists and Turks (rivalry with the Ottoman Empire culminated just before Bach's birth, in 1683, in the Battle of Vienna). The music has pandemonium-like qualities. The cantata starts with a tempestuous chorus with martial trumpets ("Thwart the murderous rage of the Pope and the Turk"). The tenor aria is a prayer to arms, full of warlike fervor. The third part is again a chorale, interspersed with tormented recitatives by the alto and tenor. The bloodthirsty bass aria is accompanied by roaring arpeggios on the strings ("Hurl to the ground the pompous proud"). The final chorale is a plea for peace. (***)