Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Bach - First Sunday After Easter

Forest Floor in April
Bach wrote two cantatas for the first Sunday after Easter, and for me this solo cantata, BWV 42 (Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbatas, On the evening of that same Sabbath) from 1725 is a veritable Bach masterpiece. It takes place in the upper room after the Marys have come back with the news that the tomb was found empty and the events that occurred there. Here's what musicologist Simon Crouch has to say about this lovely work:
One of the fascinating features of the cantatas is the use of parody. This is the adaptation of previously existing material to a new work. This occurs all over Bach's oeuvre, perhaps most notably in the b-minor Mass and in the Christmas Oratorio. This procedure was rather frowned upon in the past, perhaps because of our romantic notions of artistic originality. So what? I say. I rather enjoy hearing great material being used in different contexts. One of the most fortunate consequences of the parody technique where Bach is concerned is that occasionally we come across bits of otherwise lost works. An excellent example of this is the St. Mark Passion where we have the libretto but the music is lost. However, musicologists have been able to make reasonable reconstructions of the work because much of the music appears in the cantatas (especially BWV 198). Here we have another example. The opening sinfonia of this cantata sounds decidedly as though it's the opening movement of a lost concerto and since Bach did use known concerto movements in this way, it's a fair bet that here we do have a bit of such a work. It's rather good, well up to Brandenburg Concerto standard. After a recitative, there's a long alto aria that itself may use music from a slow movement of the same concerto. It's a very gentle and very beautiful piece. The rest of this cantata is, perhaps, not up to the standard of these movements but still is enjoyable. The following duet is driven nicely by a jerky, octave leaping continuo part and after another recitative, the final aria is workmanlike rather than inspired. As usual, the cantata finishes with a chorale setting.
I also suggest that you follow this link to read the late musicologist Craig Smith's take on this wonderful cantata. It's a tad long to post here, but it's well worth the read!

The performance I've chosen today is from 1990 by La Chapelle Royale and the Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!


Photo © 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger

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