Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Bach - Second Sunday After Trinity

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. – Psalm 19: 1
Today is the second Sunday after Trinity, the second Sunday in ordinary time, when the parables of Jesus in the Gospels are examined. This week's parable is from Luke 14: 16-24, the parable of the Great Supper. But interestingly, Bach's best cantata for this Sunday is anchored on the Old Testament reading for the day, Psalm 19. This is BWV 76, Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (The heavens declare the glory of God), his second cantata for his new job as cantor at Leipzig. Like his first Leipzig cantata, BWV 75, this one is obviously meant to impress his new employers. And impress it does! The late Craig Smith at Emmanuel Music describes:
BWV 76 begins with a brilliant chorus with trumpet, oboes and strings, based on the opening sentences of Psalm 19. The dazzling fugue, first sung by the soloists then taken up by the chorus, is based upon the chorale "Dies sind die heilige zehn Gebot," a chorale designated for the Sunday that this cantata was written for but never otherwise heard in the cantata. After a long and expressive recitative for tenor and strings, the soprano sings a sweet and childlike aria with solo violin. The announcement of God's voice is not grand but as if in the mind of a child. The bass then exhorts the people to foreswear their evil ways, first in a recitative then in a brilliant aria with trumpet and strings. The alto recitative ushers in the mysterious and haunting elaborated setting of the chorale "Es woll uns Gott genädig sein." The second part of the cantata introduces obbligato instruments that have up to this time not been heard in the cantata. A sinfonia based on an earlier organ Trio Sonata is scored for oboe d'amore and viola da gamba. After a paranoid and brutal tenor aria with continuo, these obbligato instruments return to accompany the heavenly alto aria, certainly one of the most extraordinary and haunting of all of Bach's alto arias. The mysterious chorale setting from the first part is repeated to end the cantata.
©Craig Smith
The performance I've chosen for this week is by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman from 1997. Enjoy!

© 2017 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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