|The creek in Winter, Dykeman Spring Nature Park, Shippensburg, PA|
Bach only wrote two cantatas for the Lenten season, for Oculi, the third Sunday in Lent. Apparently it was somehow taboo to make a joyful noise during the penitential Lenten season. So as I've done in past years, I'll pick a cantata from Bach's cantatas not associated with a particular Sunday in the Lutheran liturgical calendar. And this year I've decided to take my cue from Brian McCreath on his weekly Bach Hour on Sunday mornings on WCRB, WGBH Boston's classical music station. This week Brian chose BWV 106, and I wholeheartedly agree.
BWV 106, Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the very best of times), also known as Actus Tragicus, was written for the funeral of Bach's uncle in 1707. It's one of his earlier cantatas and is considered the best of his pre-Leipzig work. Musicologist Craig Smith had this to say about it:
Bach Cantata BWV 106 is his first great cantata and remains one of his most touching pieces. Written for the funeral of his uncle, it has a personal and passionate quality unique in his output. It is scored for the unusual combination of two recorders two violas da gamba and continuo. This soft-edged instrumental combination produces not only instrumental but vocal writing of the utmost delicacy and refinement. As is usual in Bach early works there are not set arias and choruses but everything is blended together into a large arc. (From the Emmanuel Music website)
This 1966 recording by Karl Richter is a particularly beautiful interpretation of this very beautiful cantata. Enjoy!
Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger