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8.550643 - BACH, J.S.: Cantatas, BWV 51 and 208
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
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 elder 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 elder 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 Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51, was written for performance on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, possibly 17th September 1730, in Leipzig. It is scored for a solo soprano, trumpet, strings and basso continuo. The splendid florid opening aria, with trumpet obbligato, is followed by an accompanied recitative, leading to an A minor aria in lilting 12/8 metre. The cantata ends with a closing chorale and melismatic Alleluia, a vehicle for coloratura performance.
The secular cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208, with a text by Salomo Franck, was written during Bach's employment at Weimar, commanded for the birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels, celebrated in a hunting festival perhaps as early as 1713. The cantata was later performed in honour of Duke Ernst August of Sachsen-Weimar, co-regent and nephew of the disapproving Duke Wilhelm Ernst, whose intransigence led in 1717 to Bach's departure. The music of a later adaption in honour of the name-day of August III in the 1740s has been lost. The cantata makes use of four singers, two sopranos, representing Diana and Pales, a tenor, Endymion, and a bass, Pan. The instruments involved include two corni da caccia, recorders, two oboes and an oboe da caccia, basson, strings and continuo.
Diana, in an opening recitative, sings of the pleasures of the hunt, continuing, in an aria appropriately accompanied by the two hunting-horns, to declare hunting the pleasure of the gods. The tenor Endymion in a recitative complains that Diana has deserted him for the hunt, with an elaborate melisma on the last word. In the succeeding aria, with continuo accompaniment, he asks if she has now turned away from the snares of love. Now Diana announces the importance of the day, on which Duke Christian is to be honoured, a declaration that persuades Endymion to join her in a celebratory duet. Pan now offers his own tribute, in a recitative and a following pastoral aria accompanied by the three oboes. Pales, the goddess of sheep and flocks, follows suit, her recitative leading to one of the best known of all arias, widely known in English as Sheep may safely graze, Schafe können sicher weiden, words that, in context, have no religious connotation. This is accompanied by two recorders, instruments associated often with the pastoral. The four singers join together, with the instrumental ensemble, now without the recorders. The next aria is shared by Diana and Endymion, accompanied by a solo violin. The following aria, with basso continuo accompaniment only, is given to Pales, succeeded by a further aria for Pan. The cantata ends with a final chorus for the whole company.
Failoni Chamber Orchestra
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