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February 26, 2012

Bach Cantatas (12): The consecration of a new organ (Feb 26)

In 2012, February 26 falls in the quiet period in which no music was played in the Leipzig churches, so there are no specific cantatas written for this Sunday. On Sundays such as this one, from now on we will look at religious Bach cantatas for which no fixed date exists, or which were not part of the normal Church year.

Today we will listen to the long cantata Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest, BWV 194, written for the consecration of a new organ, held on November 2, 1723, in the Störmthal church. By exception among the non-Church Year Cantatas, this cantata is linked to Readings: Revelation 21:2–8, the New Jerusalem, and Luke 19:1–10, the Conversion of Zacchaeus. As the text fitted, this cantata could also be performed on Trinity Sunday. The long cantata is in two parts, and consists of 12 items.


  • Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest, BWV 194, 2 November 1723

    Chor: Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest
    Rezitativ Bass: Unendlich großer Gott
    Arie Bass: Was des Höchsten Glanz erfüllt
    Rezitativ Soprano: Wie könnte dir, du höchstes Angesicht
    Arie Soprano: Hilf, Gott, daß es uns gelingt
    Choral: Heilger Geist ins Himmels Throne

    Rezitativ Tenor: Ihr Heiligen, erfreuet euch
    Arie Tenor: Des Höchsten Gegenwart allein
    Rezitativ (Dialog - Duett) Bass, Soprano: Kann wohl ein Mensch zu Gott im Himmel steigen?
    Arie (Duett) Soprano & Bass: O wie wohl ist uns geschehn
    Rezitativ Bass: Wohlan demnach, du heilige Gemeine
    Choral: Sprich Ja zu meinen Taten

    A very attractive cantata that lasts a full 40 minutes and somewhat reminds one of an orchestral suite. The opening chorus (in three parts) is in the style of a French overture and all the arias have dance rhythms. The reason is that this cantata was based on an earlier, secular one written when Bach served at the court in Köthen (which is now lost). The bass aria ("the radiance of the Highest") is a pastoral and sings in a softly rocking rhythm about the light of God. It is the most beautiful aria of the cantata, sung in a high register with strings and oboe. The soprano next warns for vanity in her recitative. Also the soprano aria, a gavotte, is very attractive. It sings about the movement of the fire ("imbue Your Fire in us"). The first part is next closed with a straightforward choral - with a rare, independent oboe.

    The second part (which would have followed after the sermon, post concionem) starts with an recitative and aria (in the form of a gigue) for tenor, a song which describes joy ("Only the presence of the Highest can be the source of our joy"). The recitative for soprano and bass is a dialogue between Doubt (bass) and Conviction (soprano). Of course Conviction wins and in their duet (a minuet) soprano and bass together sing the praise of God. This duet again features a very attractive melody, accompanied by two oboes and spun out for a long time. The final choral has a dance-like character, in tune with the overall joyfulness of this cantata.

(1) New Year's Day (2) New Year I (3) Epiphany (4) Epiphany I (5) Epiphany II (6) Epiphany III (7) Epiphany IV (8) Feast of Purification of Mary (9) Septuagesima (10) Sexagesima (11) Quinquagesima (Estomihi) (12) The Consecration of a New Organ (13) The Inauguration of the Town Council (14) Oculi (15) Wedding Cantatas (16) Feast of Annunciation (17) Palm Sunday (18) Easter Sunday (19) Easter Monday (20) Easter Tuesday (21) Easter I (Quasimodogeniti) (22) Easter II (23) Easter III (24) Easter IV (25) Easter V (26) Ascension Day (27) Ascension I (28) Pentecost Sunday (29) Pentecost Monday (30) Pentecost Tuesday (31) Trinity Sunday (32) Trinity I (33) Trinity II (34) Trinity III (35) St. John's Day (36) Trinity IV (37) Visitation (38) Trinity V (39) Trinity VI (40) Trinity VII (41) Trinity VIII (42) Trinity IX (43) Trinity X (44) Trinity XI (45) Trinity XII (46) Trinity XIII (47) Trinity XIV (48) Trinity XV (49) Trinity XVI (50) Trinity XVII (51) Trinity XVIII (52) Trinity XIX (53) Trinity XX (54) Trinity XXI (55) Trinity XXII (56) Trinity XXIII (57) Trinity XXIV (58) Trinity XXV-XXVII (59) Advent I-IV (60) Christmas Day (61) Second Day of Christmas (62) Third Day of Christmas (63) Sunday after Christmas