"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

June 25, 2012

Bach Cantatas (35): St John's Day (June 24)

The feast of the birth John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24 - in 2012 this doubles with Trinity III. John the Baptist was a messianic figure, a forerunner of Jesus and most Biblical scholars agree that he baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. The prediction of the coming of John was very much like the message of Advent.


Readings:
Isaiah 40:1–5, "Prepare the Way"
Luke 1:57–80, The birth of John the Baptist and Prophecy of Zacharias

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe, BWV 167, 24 June 1723

    Aria (tenor): Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
    Recitativo (alto): Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel
    Aria (soprano, alto): Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht
    Recitativo (bass): Des Weibes Samen kam
    Chorale: Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren

    ("You people. glorify God's love") Very compact cantata with memorable melodies. The cantata opens with a joyful, dancing aria for tenor and strings. The alto recitative compares the coming of John with the coming of Jesus. Next comes a densely textured duet for alto and soprano "God's word does not deceive," with oboe da caccia. After a bass recitative follows a surprise: a brilliant and joyous chorale “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren.” This is the kind of melody to hum along with! (****)

  • Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7, 24 June 1724

    Chorus: "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam"
    Aria: "Merkt und hört, ihr Menschenkinder"
    Recitative: "Dies hat Gott klar mit Worten"
    Aria: "Des Vaters Stimme ließ sich hören"
    Recitative: "Als Jesus dort nach seinen Leiden"
    Aria: "Menschen, glaubt doch dieser Gnade"
    Chorale: "Das Aug allein das Wasser sieht" 


    ("Christ our Lord came to the Jordan") About the baptism of Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan, and the meaning of baptism in general. Water images permeate every movement of this cantata. In the solemn opening chorus - based on a Luther chorale - which resembles an Italian violin concerto, the tenors sing the cantus firmus. There is a feeling of ebb and flow in this wonderful movement. The bass aria is only accompanied by the continuo. The descending motif suggest the cleansing effect of baptism. A secco recitative leads to a tenor aria, accompanied by two dueting violins. The triple measure symbolizes the Trinity and in the up-flowing music we hear the dove of the Holy Spirit. The following recitative is given to the bass as Vox Christi and accompanied by strings. The alto aria is graced by two oboes d'amore and the strings. It is the liturgical core of the cantata, stressing that believers can only be saved by faith and baptism and that "human deeds and holiness" matter nothing at all. The closing chorale is a beautiful four-part harmonization. (****)

  • Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV 30, 24 June 1738

    Coro: "Freue dich, erlöste Schar" for choir, flauti traversi, oboes, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Wir haben Rast" for bass and continuo.
    Aria: "Gelobet sei Gott, gelobet sein Name" for bass, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Der Herold kömmt und meldt den König an" for altus and continuo.
    Aria: "Kommt, ihr angefochtnen Sünder" for altus, flauto traverso, strings, and continuo.
    Chorale: "Eine Stimme lässt sich hören" for choir and orchestral tutti colle parti.
    Recitativo: "So bist du denn, mein Heil, bedacht" for bass, oboes and continuo.
    Aria: "Ich will nun hassen" for bass, oboe d'amore, violino solo, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Und obwohl sonst der Unbestand" for soprano and continuo.
    Aria: "Eilt, ihr Stunden, kommt herbei" for soprano, violins, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Geduld, der angenehme Tag" for tenor, and continuo.
    Coro: "Freude dich, geheilgte Schar" for choir, orchestral tutti, and continuo.


    ("Rejoice, redeemed throng") Based on a secular cantata (BWV 30a, Angenehmes Wiederau) composed the previous year. Thematically, this cantata is praise of God for keeping His promise. Starts with a joyful opening chorus with syncopated rhythm. A bass recitative leads into a brilliant aria for bass with strings. The highlight of the cantata is the gentle aria for alto with flute and strings, which is permeated with a feeling of grace. A choral setting ends the first part of the cantata. While the first part zoomed in on God's keeping His promise, the second part gives us the reaction of the individual believers ("I now will hate and leave behind everything, which is contrary to You, my God"). The second half starts with a bass recitative and an aria, which surprisingly is in the gallant style (this a late Bach). In contrast, the following soprano aria is in antique gigue style. The arpeggios in the accompaniment illustrate the hurrying of the hours which soon brings the believer to the pasture of Heaven. A repetition of the opening chorus concludes the cantata. (****)