"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

January 29, 2012

Bach Cantatas (7): 4th Sunday after Epiphany (Jan 29)

The cantatas for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany, in 2012 Jan. 29. This fourth (and last) Sunday after Epiphany does not occur every year, so there are only two cantatas for it.

Readings:
Romans 13:8–10, love completes the law
Matthew 8:23–27, Jesus calming the storm

References:
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Cantatas:
  1. Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen? BWV 81, 30 January 1724

    Aria (Alt, Blockflöten): Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen?
    Recitativo (Tenor): Herr! warum trittest du so ferne?
    Aria (Tenor): Die schäumenden Wellen von Belials Bächen
    Arioso (Bass): Ihr Kleingläubigen, warum seid ihr so furchtsam?
    Aria (Bass, Oboe d'amore): Schweig, aufgetürmtes Meer!
    Recitativo (Alt): Wohl mir, mein Jesus spricht ein Wort
    Choral: Unter deinen Schirmen


    The familiar story of Jesus stilling the waves. Life is compared to a sea voyage. The cantata plays with the contrast of Jesus being hidden (sleeping) and appearing (acting). This a very operatic and dramatic cantata, concentrating on solo vocal movements. After an alto aria, which speaks of the "sleeping" (illustrated by the recorders, low registers of the strings and long notes in the voice) - at the same time, a contemplation on the terror of death - we get a ferocious storm scene in the tenor aria, full of bravura passage work. The arioso is devoted to the bass as the Vox Christi reciting a quote from the Gospel: "Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" This is followed by a powerful bass aria where the storm (unison runs of the strings) is silenced by Jesus (calmer motion in the oboes). The cantata concludes with a four part choral. (****)



  2. Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV 14, 30 January 1735

    (Coro): "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit" for choral and instrumental tutti.
    Aria: "Unsre Stärke heißt zu schwach" for soprano, corno da caccia, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Ja, hätt es Gott nur zugegeben" for tenor and continuo.
    Aria: "Gott, bei deinem starken Schützen" for bass, oboes, and continuo.
    Chorale: "Gott Lob und Dank, der nicht zugab" for choral and instrumental tutti colle parti.


    This is the last cantata written by Bach, dating from January, 1735. The initial chorus and final chorale are based on Luther’s Psalm 124, a hymn of communal thanksgiving. The inner movements are concerned with the results of sin: war and natural disaster, from which God’s protection is required (reflecting the protection given against the storm in the reading for this day). The somewhat academic opening chorus explores complex contrapuntal possibilities. The brilliant soprano aria with its delightful orchestration (corno da caccia) comes as a fresh breeze. It reflects the wrathful enemy. Also the bass aria with two obbligato oboes is a nice show piece, singing about God's intervention and the taming of the forces of evil. (***)