Sunday, February 04, 2018

Sunday Bach - Sexagesima

After the Blizzard, January 2016
Bach's cantatas for Sexagesima (60 days before Easter) Sunday are a tad grim as they play on Luther's less jolly side; they are, in fact, diatribes against unbelievers, and specifically Catholics and Muslims. Given Luther's rabid anti-Semitism, it's a wonder he didn't include Jews in these particular circumstances as well. But musically, his earliest cantata for this Sunday in the liturgical calender is less virulent and shows off Bach's experimentation in new forms - BWV 18, Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (Even as the rain and snow fall from heaven, Weimar 1715). Bach was impressed with the concerti of Vivaldi, and this cantata is his first experiment with the Italian concerto form. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music:
BWV 18 - Cantata BWV 18 is an important transitional work in the Bach canon. Soon after arriving in Weimar in 1713 Bach discovered the Italian concerti that he was to arrange for keyboard solo. These Italian works were to be very influential in the development of his international style. The Sinfonia that opens our cantata is Bach’s first original foray into the Italian concerto form. The movement for the unusual combination of four violas and continuo shows complete mastery of the Italianate style that he had seen in the Vivaldi models that had so impressed him. The top two violas carry the weight of the argument with the third and fourth violas as well as the continuo instruments providing the accompaniment. The dark color of the massed tenor instruments provides a perfect illustration of the stormy weather at the beginning of the text. Bach’s recitative style is not so fully formed as we will find in the later Leipzig pieces. The first recitative in particular is reminiscent of the earlier 17th-century arioso style. The central body of the work is in an unusual form with extended recitative alternating with a rather fierce soprano Litany. The soprano aria with all of the violas in unison is a very simple, Italianate aria, one of the first of its type in Bach. The violas doubling of the voices in the chorale provide a darkly appropriate color to the final chorale, a setting of "Durch Adams Fall." 
© Craig Smith
Today's performance is by the Ricercar Consort under the direction of Philippe Pierlot. Enjoy!

Photo © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

1 comment:

  1. That's a terrific photo. It looks like somebody's Christmas card.