Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Bach - Trinity 23

Bach wrote three cantatas for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity, and today we'll be listening to the first one - BWV 163, Nur jedem das Seine! (Only his own!, Weimar 1715). This is a solo cantata, and despite the somber subject the music is quite joyful. This is considered one of Bach's greatest pre-Leipzig cantatas, and probably one of the best examples of the close collaboration with his librettist of the time, poet Salomo Franck. Here's the late Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music on this work:
Bach Cantata BWV 163 is one of his greatest works from the Weimar era. While at the sophisticated court at Weimar, Bach had access to probably the best poet of his career, the director of the mint, Salomo Franck. Franck's poetry often uses money as a metaphor. Here it is central to the bass aria. The work starts with a measured tenor aria with strings that restates Christ's rather heated reply to the questioning Pharisees. Both Bach and Franck ignore the passion of the charge by Jesus of hypocrisy. They are interested in the question of sacred versus secular issues. The cantata has an interesting scheme. The opening aria uses the whole range of the orchestra. The next aria exploits the bass and the lower instruments. The soprano-alto recitative and duet are predominantly high in range. The division of range subtly exploits the low range for things earthly and the high for thins heavenly. The opening tenor aria is almost acedemic in its metrical insistence on the declamation. The following bass aria uses two celli as the obbligati. The darkness of the two instruments combined with the bass voice produce a texture very like the descent into the earth in Wagner's Das Rhinegold. It is one of Bach's most daring sonorities. The soprano and alto recitative is not only high and light but very complicated in its myriad of detail. The duet itself is gorgeously simple and songful with the strings playing the chorale "Meinem Jesusm lass ich nicht" on top of the texture. The work ends with a four-part harmonization of the chorale "Wo soll ich fliehen hin."

© Craig Smith
Today's performance is from a recording by the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart under the direction of Helmut Rilling. Enjoy!

Photo © 2019 by A. Roy Hilbinger

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