"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

May 20, 2012

Bach Cantatas (27): Sunday after Ascension

The Sunday after Ascension is called Exaudi ("Listen"). It is the sixth Sunday after Easter. There are two Bach cantatas for this day, both with the same title but different music.

Readings:
1 Peter 4:8–11, "Serve each other"
John 15:26–16:4, "Farewell discourse, announcement of the Spirit of Truth and persecution"

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44, 21 May 1724

    Aria (tenor, bass): Sie werden euch in den Bann tun
    Coro: Es kömmt aber die Zeit, daß, wer euch tötet, wird meinen, er tue Gott einen Dienst daran
    Aria (alto): Christen müssen auf der Erden Christi wahre Jünger sein
    Chorale (tenor): Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid
    Recitativo (bass): Es sucht der Antichrist
    Aria (soprano): Es ist und bleibt der Christen Trost
    Chorale: So sei nun, Seele, deine


    ("They will put you out of the synagogues") Textually this compact cantata is about Jesus' warning to his disciples that their task will not be easy after he has left them. The dark-colored piece starts with a duet for tenor and bass, setting the theme, followed by an agitated chorus expressing fear of persecution. The alto aria paints the path full of suffering of the Christian on earth. This is taken up in the strangely chromatic chorale for tenor. In the bass recitative Christians are compared to the branches of palm trees which grow higher and straighter when they are weighted down. The lively soprano aria with full orchestral accompaniment finally brings consolation, which is reaffirmed in the last chorale. Musically, the cantata is based on the contrast between pain and consolation. (***)

  • Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 183, 13 May 1725

    Recitativo (bass): Sie werden euch in den Bann tun
    Aria (tenor): Ich fürchte nicht des Todes Schrecken
    Recitativo (alto): Ich bin bereit, mein Blut und armes Leben
    Aria (soprano): Höchster Tröster, Heilger Geist
    Chorale: Du bist ein Geist, der lehret


    ("They will put you out of the synagogues") This cantata has an unusual instrumentation, such as three types of oboes (oboe, oboe da caccia and oboe d'amore) and a violincello piccolo; it also lacks a chorus. Although carrying the same title as the previous cantata, it is somewhat more optimistic, stressing that fear of persecution will be allayed by the Holy Spirit. After the stark opening recitative by the bass as Vox Christi singing in a sepulchral tone, follows a long and fine tenor aria in an elegiac mood ("I do not fear the horror of death"). Although the voice sings he is not afraid, the tortured melody in fact expresses fear! After an alto recitative ("I am ready"), accompanied by four oboes, the soprano aria follows with a beautiful oboe da caccia line. It is the most exuberant part of the cantata, in a "striding rhythm," although not free from shadows. The conclusion is a simple choral. In this cantata Bach shows his most experimental side. (***)