"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

April 29, 2012

Bach cantatas (23): Third Sunday after Easter

The third Sunday after Easter is called Jubilate ("Praise God"), going back to Psalm 66; it is also the first word of the Introit for the Mass on this Sunday. It is an exhortation to universal joy and thanksgiving. The liturgy for this day continues to celebrate the Easter Resurrection, as will be the case on the following two Sundays as well.


1 Peter 2:11–20
John 16:16–23, Farewell discourse, announcement of the Second Coming

  • Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, 22 April 1714

    Chorus "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen"
    Recitative "Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal"
    Aria "Kreuz und Kronen sind verbunden"
    Aria "Ich folge Christo nach"
    Aria "Sei getreu, alle Pein"
    Chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan"

    ("Weeping, wailing, lamenting, fearing") This early cantata in somewhat archaic style describes the affliction of the disciples who have to take leave of Jesus, as well as the hardship that waits for them during His absence. The moving sinfonia for plaintive oboe and strings sets the mood for the elegiac opening chorus. The first section of this chorus is a passacaglia, a traditional lamenting figure. The only recitative of this cantata, "We must enter the Kingdom of God through much sorrow," is set for alto - with a rising scale used for the "entering." After that follow three arias: alto solo with oboe, in which the tortuous element of the music reflects the "Cross" in the text; bass with two solo violins - here the whole structure is based on the word "following" as expressed by the violins following the bass and each other; the mournful tenor aria is accompanied by the chorale melody "Jesu meine Freude" on a tromba (often replaced by oboe). The chorale "What God does, is well done" closes this moving cantata. (****)

  • Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103, 22 April 1725

    Chor und Arioso B: Ihr werdet weinen und heulen
    Rezitativ T: Wer sollte nicht in Klagen untergehn
    Arie A: Kein Arzt ist außer dir zu finden
    Rezitativ A: Du wirst mich nach der Angst auch wiederum erquicken
    Arie T: Erholet euch, betrübte Sinnen
    Choral: Ich hab dich einen Augenblick

    ("Ye shall weep and lament") Based on the Gospel verse for this day, that weeping will turn into joy. That is marvelously expressed in the intricate opening chorus: falling chromatic lines for "weeping and wailing," staccato phrasing for "the world shall be rejoicing," and above it all we hear the shrieks of the piccolo recorder, either of pain or joy. The following recitative-aria pairs continue the antithesis of sorrow to joy. The tenor recitative ends on "sorrows," which is taken up by the alto aria which is accompanied by a wonderfully florid recorder; the next alto recitative ends on "joy" and leads to an exuberant tenor aria with interesting obligato trumpet part. The mood has evidently changed to joy about the future return of Jesus. The cantata closes with the usual chorale, a proper benediction on the words "Was mein Gott will, dass g'scheh allzeit." (***)

  • Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal, BWV 146, 12 May 1726 or 18 April 1728

    Coro: Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen
    Aria (alto): Ich will nach dem Himmel zu
    Recitativo (soprano): Ach! wer doch schon im Himmel wär!
    Aria (soprano): Ich säe meine Zähren
    Recitativo (tenor): Ich bin bereit, mein Kreuz geduldig zu ertragen
    Aria (tenor, bass): Wie will ich mich freuen, wie will ich mich laben
    Chorale: Denn wer selig dahin fähret or Ach, ich habe schon erblicket

    ("We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God") In keeping with the liturgical character of the day, the text traces a spiritual path from grief to rejoicing. The first three vocal  movements deplore the sufferings in the world, after which the next three depict hope for a better life in the Kingdom of God. This is interwoven with a longing for death. The cantata starts with a lengthy sinfonia and chorus, both based on the lost violin concerto that was also transformed into the BWV 1052 harpsichord concerto. Here the first movement takes the form of an organ concerto. The second movement - also with obligato organ part - is used for the elegiac chorus. The chorus focuses single-mindedly on "troubles," through sustained dissonances on that word. This is followed by an expressive alto aria with violin accompaniment. Rising scales represent the passage to heaven, and the aria is full of "Todessehnsucht." The following recitative is a lament on the persecution in the world, accompanied by long chords on the strings. The soprano aria ("They that sow in tears") is accompanied by flute and two oboes d'amore and illustrates in two sections the opposition of "sowing with tears" and "reaping with joy." Despite the mournful text is has a galant and even sensuous quality. Finally there is a joyous duet for tenor and bass. It may have been derived from a secular dance movement. For the finale chorale the text is missing. The melody is based on "Werde munter, meine Gemüte," and this is paired with various texts in different performances.  (***)

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