Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Bach - The Sunday After Christmas

The first Sunday after Christmas falls in the midst of the 12-day Christmastide celebration, and even though Bach had his massive oratorio to cover the official liturgical feast days scattered throughout the period, this Sunday isn't one of them. So for today we step out of the glorious oratorio; but don't worry, tomorrow is New Year's Day and the fourth cantata of the oratorio is on tap!

Meanwhile, here is a beautiful, intimate little solo cantata for soprano and bass written specifically for the Sunday after Christmas - BWV 152, Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (Walk in the way of faith, Weimar, 1714). Compared to the magnificent glories of the Christmas Oratorio, this is a quiet, understated little gem for two voices and small chamber ensemble that shines out like a single star in the midst of the Milky Way. Here's Simon Crouch on this beauty:
Written early in Bach's career at Weimar, the solo cantata BWV 152 starts with a most attractive concerto. There's four bars of rather stately introduction in common time followed by a permutation fugue that skips along in 3/8. The subject (which you may wish to compare with that from BWV 536) is introduced by the recorder and developed by the oboe, viola d'amore (an instrument that has sympathetically resonating strings beneath the fingerboard) and the viola da gamba. The bass aria that follows has one of those wonderfully plaintive oboe lines, at which Bach so excelled, weaving in and out of the vocalist's line. The recitative has a nice leap down and up for the soloist at the words zum fall und Auferstehen! The soprano aria has a beautiful and elegant accompaniment from the recorder and viola d'amore and requires a singer of pure voice and even tone to do justice to the long held notes. After a recitative, the cantata is rounded off by a fine bass/soprano dialogue where the soul enquires of Jesus how to obtain salvation. The recorder and oboe play most effectively in unison in this movement.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
Today's performance is a 1993 recording by the American Bach Soloists under the direction of Jeffery Thomas. Enjoy!


Photo © 2015 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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