Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Bach - Fifth Sunday After Trinity


Bach composed two cantatas for the fifth Sunday after Trinity, and I've chosen his first one, BWV 93, Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (Leipzig, 1724), a chorale cantata based on a hymn by Georg Neumark from 1641. Bach seems to have been obsessed with this particular hymn, as he used it in at least six other cantatas. But for me his use of it here, especially in the opening chorale fantasia, is the most beautiful. Here's what Erik Eriksson of All Music has to say about it:
Another of Bach's remarkable Leipzig cantatas, Cantata No. 93 "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten" (He Who Grants to God All Power) was composed for the fifth Sunday after Trinity. Scored for four-part chorus and soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, it expands on the customary formula for a chorale cantata. The structure is freer, as is the feeling that results. The opening chorus is an example of such elaboration: the chorale is first heard in harmonized form, later worked out in counterpoint, and concludes with a straightforward restatement in four-part harmony. The second verse of the chorale is highlighted by the interjections of the bass soloist, creating a movement of considerable complexity. The fourth section, a graceful duet for soprano and alto soloists, poises itself above the chorale melody performed by strings playing a solitary line. The composer was pleased enough with this piece to recast it for organ as one of his six Chorale preludes "Schübler Chorales." The first part of the opening chorale makes reference to "building upon sand." He who trusts in God and believes in him will be protected through every tribulation. He who trusts in God does not build upon the sand. In the second verse, the bass soloist poses the questions and the chorus answers. What use are grievous worries, "Weh und Ach" (Woe and Alas)? They merely weigh the heart and bring distress. A Christian does better by bearing his cross with Christ-like assurance and calm. The tenor soloist maintains that if we are observant when the hour of the cross draws nigh, we shall finally see salvation. Over the instrumental sounding of the chorale, the soprano and alto soloists confidently observe that he who knows the time for gladness will discover God comes to bring a positive result. An ensuing restatement of the chorale with tenor recitative implores that no thought be wasted when fire and thunder crackle for, after the rains, Jesus brings sunlight. In an aria of comforting certainty, the soprano soloist sings that she will place her trust in the Lord, for he can work the rarest wonders. The seventh and concluding chorale urges the faithful to sing, pray, and travel along God's own pathways, performing good works and resting in the Lord, who forsakes not his people.
Today's performance is from 1993 by the Chorus and Orchestra of Collegium Vocale, Ghent, under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. Enjoy!


Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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