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December 29, 2015

Bach Cantatas (63): Sunday after Christmas

Not every year has a Sunday after Christmas. When it occurs, it may fall both before or after the New Year. There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

Readings for the Sunday after Christmas:
Galatians 4:1–7, Through Christ we are free from the law
Luke 2:33–40, Simeon and Anna with Mary in the temple


  • Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152, 30 December 1714
    Aria (bass): Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn
    Recitative (bass): Der Heiland ist gesetzt
    Aria (soprano): Stein, der über alle Schätze
    Recitative (bass): Es ärgre sich die kluge Welt
    Duet (soprano, bass): Wie soll ich dich, Liebster der Seelen, umfassen?

    ("Step upon the path of faith") Dialogue cantata composed in Weimar in 1714. The chamber work features an exotic orchestration, including viola d’amore (an instrument with sympathetically resonating strings), viola da gamba, recorder and oboe d’amore. While playing with the symbolism that God laid "the stone of foundation" and that Jesus is a "stone beyond all gems," the text is an allegorical dialogue between Jesus and the Soul about faith as the Rock of the Ages which never fails, and concludes with a rejection of the world. The cantata starts with an attractive sinfonia which has some resemblance to Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A Major for organ. The first aria is for the bass as Vox Christi, who invites the Soul to "step upon the path of faith," accompanied by purposeful music. In the ensuing recitative the bass introduces the symbol of the corner stone, which is taken up in the soprano aria, featuring an elegant accompaniment from the recorder and viola d'amore. The final duet (there is no chorale) unites Jesus and the Soul (and the upper instruments in unisono). 

  • Das neugeborne Kindelein, BWV 122, 31 December 1724
    Chorale: Das neugeborne Kindelein
    Aria (bass): O Menschen, die ihr täglich sündigt
    Recitative (soprano): Die Engel, welche sich zuvor
    Aria (soprano, alto, tenor): Ist Gott versöhnt und unser Freund
    Recitative (bass): Dies ist ein Tag, den selbst der Herr gemacht
    Chorale: Es bringt das rechte Jubeljahr

    ("The new-born infant child") Chorale cantata from Bach's second Leipzig year, based on a hymn by Cyriakus Schneegass (1597) which celebrates the newborn Jesus. The opening chorale is rather muted and the long and chromatic bass aria which follows dwells on "men who daily sin." Only accompanied by the continuo, this is the longest movement of the cantata. In the next recitative the chorale melody is played by three recorders, and in the trio for soprano, alto and tenor, it is sung by the alto as cantus firmus. After a bass recittaive which dwells on the joyful message of Christmas, the cantata closes with the usual plain harmonization of the chorale. 

  • Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende, BWV 28, 30 December 1725
    Aria (soprano): Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende
    Chorale: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
    Recitative and arioso (bass): So spricht der Herr
    Recitative (tenor): Gott ist ein Quell
    Duet aria (alto and tenor): Gott hat uns im heurigen Jahre gesegnet
    Chorale: All solch dein Güt wir preisen

    ("Praise God! The year now draws to a close") Part of Bach's third Leipzig cycle. The Sunday after Christmas is the last Sunday of the year and the principal topic of this cantata is the passing of the old year and coming of the new year, without referring to the readings for the day. The opening soprano aria exhorts us to recall God's gifts in the previous year and bring thanks. That thanks is then represented by the chorale "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren," here in rare second position. This movement is in motet style; motets were traditionally part of Christmas music in Germany. The theme of God's generosity is continued in the arioso for bass and the tenor recitative. The duet for alto and tenor then sums up the themes of gratitude. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale harmonisation.

(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