Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday Bach - Fifth Sunday After Easter

Yellow Wood Sorrel
Today is the fifth Sunday after Easter. Bach wrote two small, intimate cantatas for this Sunday, and I chose the first of them, BWV 86, Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch (Truly, truly I say to you), from 1724. The theme is still from the 16th chapter of John, where Jesus speaks to the disciples, preparing them for his final departure. Here's what the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music had to say about this beautiful little gem of a cantata:
Cantata 86 is a product of Bach’s first Leipzig cantata cycle. It focuses on a passage from Jesus’ extensive farewell to his disciples in the Book of John. The key lines are “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you,” and “the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables.” 
The first movement is equivalent to a five-voice choral motet, the bass soloist, representing Jesus, sharing musical materials with four string parts. This is followed by an unusual aria for alto, in which the violin part has little thematic activity, but is instead given over to frenetic figuration. The listener can decide if this refers to the thorns, risked in the breaking of the rose, or a vision of shining assurance, the reward of belief. 
A driving version, for soprano and two oboes d'amore, of a verse from the chorale ‘Come to me, says the Son of God,’ leads to a tenor recitative and aria, which makes use of a metaphor: a very spare, reiterative statement, “God will surely help,” is buttressed by fugal, compact musical ideas. 
Even the closing chorale is unusually economical in its range of harmonic color, lending further support to the cantata’s emphasis on trust, and simplicity of spirit. 
For today's Sunday Bach I chose a lovely performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

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