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8.550431 - BACH, J.S.: Soprano Cantatas, BWV 199, 202 and 209
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
The career of Johann Sebastian Bach, the most illustrious of a prolific musical family, falls neatly into three unequal parts. Born in 1685 in Eisenach, from the age of ten Bach lived and studied music with his eider brother in Ohrdruf, after the death of both his parents. After a series of appointments as organist and briefly as a court musician, he became, in 1708, court-organist and chamber-musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, the eider of the two brothers who jointly ruled the duchy. In 1714 he was promoted to the position of Konzertmeister to the Duke, but in 1717, after a brief period of imprisonment for his temerity in seeking to leave the Duke's service, he abandoned Weimar to become court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, a position he held until 1723. From then until his death in 1750 he lived in Leipzig, where he was Thomaskantor, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches, in 1729 assuming direction of the university collegium musicum, founded by Telemann in 1702.
At Weimar Bach had been principally employed as an organist, and his compositions of the period include a considerable amount written for the instrument on which he was recognised as a virtuoso performer. At Cöthen, where Pietist traditions dominated the court, he had no church duties, and was responsible rather for court music. The period brought the composition of a number of instrumental works. The final 27 years of Bach's life brought a variety of preoccupations, and while his official employment necessitated the provision of church music, he was able to provide music for the university collegium musicum and to write or re-arrange a number of important works for the keyboard.
The cantata for soprano, oboe, strings and basso continuo, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199, was written in 1714 for performance on 12th August, the 11th Sunday after Trinity. In that year Bach had been appointed Konzertmeister in Weimar and here set words by G.C. Lehms, as he had a month earlier in Widerstehe doch der Sünde. The year saw the composition of eight church cantatas, as did the following year, a fraction of what Bach was later to write in Leipzig.
In addition to the 200 or so surviving church cantatas Bach wrote a number of secular cantatas for a variety of occasions. Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202, scored for soprano, oboe, strings and basso continuo, was seemingly written during the composer's contented stay in Cöthen, a period brought to an end by the marriage of Prince Leopold to a woman that Bach later described as "amusica". The work is a wedding cantata, a composition intended for performance during a wedding banquet, its text a poem about spring and love, the author of which remains unknown, but might have been Salomo Franck, court poet and librarian at Weimar. One of the arias from this cantata was later used to provide the subject of a movement of the sixth of the sonatas for violin and harpsichord.
Two Italian cantatas by Bach survive, the second, Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209, for soprano, flute, strings and basso continuo, conjecturally dated to 1734, with words in occasionally curious Italian perhaps by Johann Matthias Gesner, who became Rektor of the Leipzig Thomasschule in 1730, and therefore Bach's immediate superior. The text deals with the desired return of an Italian from Germany to his own country, after years spent at Anspach, but the identity of the subject, if the words reflect real circumstances, is unknown. The music is Italianate in character, introduced by a Sinfonia that, it has been suggested, resembles the D minor violin concerto.
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