Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sunday Bach - Trinity 6

The first of Bach's cantatas for the sixth Sunday after Trinity (we listened to the second one last year) is one of his most beautiful - BWV 170, Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust (Pleasant rest, beloved soul's desire, Leipzig 1726). A solo cantata for alto voice, this cantata has an almost pastoral atmosphere, just perfect for a July Sunday. Here's Simon Crouch on this gem:
The text of this solo cantata for alto may make one think that we're in for twenty minutes of unremitting chest beating but fortunately for the listener, most of the depressing stuff is contained in the relatively compact middle recitatives and aria. The outer movements provide the rays of hope and some very beautiful music too! The cantata opens with lovely aria to a text based on the Epistle. This is certainly one of those pieces that deserves to be much better known and you may very well feel that it could quite easily stand on its own as a concert piece - give it to a great alto (male or female), ask them to tone the scale of their voice down and the result should be wonderful. The aria that follows the first recitative may strike one initially as being "interesting" rather than "attractive". Repeated listening reveals the skill with which Bach matches tortured chromaticisms to the desolation of the text. Skillfully played and sung, this becomes a very effective and moving piece. The next recitative is followed by a much more upbeat aria with a corresponding return to optimism right at the end of the text. The organ (or flute) twirls away in accompaniment to provide a buoyant finish to the cantata.

Copyright © 1997 & 1998, Simon Crouch.
This week's performance is a beautiful rendition by the ensemble of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner, and featuring the lovely voice of alto Janet Baker. Enjoy!

Photo © 2018 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

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