Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Bach on Pentecost - Whit Tuesday

Bach wrote two cantatas for the third day of Pentecost, and it was a struggle choosing between two very good examples of his talent, but in the end I had to go with this one, BWV 184, Erwünschtes Freudenlicht (Desired light of joy) from 1724. There's something almost pastoral about this, probably from the extensive use of flutes in a very dance-like rhythm throughout the cantata. Not surprising, since this is something of a reuse of an older cantata written for court rather than church. And that aria for alto and soprano! Ahhhhhh! Such beauty. After all the solemnity and magnificence of the previous days of Pentecost, this light and airy finish to the holiday period is most welcome indeed. And apparently Simon Crouch agrees: 
A delicious little phrase from the flutes introduces a long recitative that is based on the gospel of the day together with the twenty-third psalm. After that we're immediately into an absolute show-stopper! A dancing pastoral duet between soprano and alto, with the flutes providing a line that you will be whistling for days after you hear it. This is one of the greatest of the hidden gems of the cantatas and for once you will be glad that the da capo aria form allows you to hear the big tune again! The stately and elegant dance that this movement suggests means that it will come as no surprise to you to learn that BWV 184 was adapted from the secular cantata BWV 184a which is, alas, now lost to us. Another lengthy recitative is followed by a pleasant but otherwise undistinguished tenor aria and the cantata draws to a close with a straightforward, but lovely, chorale setting. 
Oh no it doesn't! For once, Bach doesn't finish off with the chorale. There's an extra chorus seemingly tacked on the end, attractive but not outstanding.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
For this cantata I've chosen a performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!


Photo © 2012 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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