"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

January 18, 2012

Bach Cantatas (4): 1st Sunday after Epiphany (Jan 8)

Depending on the date of Easter, a variable number of (up to four) Sundays occurred between Epiphany and Septuagesima, the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In 2012, the first of those Sundays fell on Jan. 8.

Readings:
Romans 12:1–6, the duties of a Christian
Luke 2:41–52, the finding in the Temple

(Bach's Lutheran church prescribed the same readings every year. They consisted always of a pair, a section from a gospel and a corresponding section from an epistle. A connection between the cantata text and the readings was necessary.)

Cantatas:
  1. Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren, BWV 154, 9 January 1724
    (BCW, CN, EVH, JN, LSG, WP, Text)

    Aria (tenor, strings): Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren Recitativo (tenor): Wo treff ich meinen Jesum an
    Chorale: Jesu, mein Hort und Erretter
    Aria (alto, oboi d'amore, strings, no continuo): Jesu, laß dich finden
    Arioso (bass): Wisset ihr nicht, daß ich sein muß
    Recitativo (tenor): Dies ist die Stimme meines Freundes
    Aria (alto, tenor, oboi d'amore, strings): Wohl mir, Jesus ist gefunden
    Chorale: Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht


    A cantata without chorus (although there are two chorales), but it compensates for this by having three beautiful arias. The cantata takes the parents' search for the lost boy Jesus as symbolic for the general situation of the soul who has lost Jesus. The first movement laments this loss, not in a chorus, but in an impassioned tenor aria full of despair and only accompanied by sparse strings. This is followed by a chorale asking Jesus to return. Next, the same request is done in a gentle alto aria, the gem of the cantata: "Jesus, let me find Thee." The bass, the voice of Christ, then answers "Do you not know that I must be in that which is my Father's?". An aria by alto and tenor then expresses the joy of the finding, after which follows the concluding chorale. (****)

  2. Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht, BWV 124, 7 January 1725
    (BCW, CN, EVH, JN, LSG, WP, Text)

    Coro: Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht
    Recitativo (tenor): Solange sich ein Tropfen Blut
    Aria (tenor): Und wenn der harte Todesschlag
    Recitativo (bass): Doch ach! welch schweres Ungemach
    Aria (soprano, alto): Entziehe dich eilends, mein Herze, der Welt
    Chorale: Jesum laß ich nicht von mir


    Chorale cantata with beautiful parts for the oboe d'amore. The readings are the same, of course, as in the cantata above, but here the wish not to loose Jesus is taken to the point of wanting to be reunited with Him after death. The opening chorus is a gentle minuet. The dramatic tenor aria, "And when the dreaded stroke of death," has a violent staccato accompaniment and delicious oboe melody. Soprano and alto next sing a joyful dance-like duet (with sparse accompaniment as its sings about withdrawal from the world). The cantata concludes with the usual harmonizing chorale. (***)

  3. Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32, 13 January 1726
    (BCW, CN, EVH, JN, LSG, WP, Text)

    Aria: "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen" for soprano, oboe, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Was ists, dass du mich gesuchet?" for bass and continuo.
    Aria: "Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte" for bass, solo violin, and continuo.
    Recitativo (dialogue): "Ach! heiliger und großer Gott" for soloists, strings, and continuo.
    Duetto: "Nun verschwinden alle Plagen" for soloists, oboe, strings, and continuo.
    Chorale: "Mein Gott, öffne mir die Pforten" for choir, oboes, strings, and continuo.


    This is a solo cantata in dialogue form for soprano and bass representing the soul (Anima) and Jesus. It starts with a fine aria (with prominent oboe solo) in which the soul expresses longing for the absent Jesus. Next the bass, as Jesus, has a long aria with virtuoso violin accompaniment. Then follows an interesting duet, signifying the union of Christ and soul, and the usual chorale ending. (***)