Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Cantatas

Sunday, 06.11.2016 12:00, Duke’s Hall

Ton Koopman guest director
Margaret Faultless leader

JS Bach Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei (Behold and see, if there be any sorrow), BWV 46 
JS Bach Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde (Haste to strike, oh longed for hour), BWV 53 
JS Bach Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied! (Sing unto the Lord a new song!), BWV 190 

Performed on historical instruments

Tickets £14 (concessions £11), season discounts available, on sale online, by telephone 020 7873 7300 (weekdays in term-time, 10.00am–4.00pm).

BWV 46 is a work of unrivalled musical drama. Composed during Bach’s first Leipzig summer of 1723, the text vividly represents the Gospel for the 10th Sunday after Trinity. The narration tells of how Jesus’s tears were unable to redeem the guilt of Jerusalem and likens God’s judgment to a storm that breaks in a flash of sudden lightning. The sorrowful lines of two recorders in the opening chorus bring to mind Jesus’s tears. While angry turbulence and lightning strikes are depicted in dotted string parts and a trumpet line during the bass aria, Bach gently brings the cantata to a more stable and pastoral sonority for the alto aria. The cantata ends with a reminder of the earlier tears and storms, as whirling recorder lines refuse to leave the chorale at rest.

The beautiful and unusual aria for solo alto ‘Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde’ was originally classified as BWV 53 and attributed to Bach as a funeral cantata aria. However musicologists now believe that the aria may have been composed by Melchior Hoffmann (1679–1715). Although both musicians resided in Leipzig for large proportions of their careers, Bach did not arrive in the city until eight years after Hoffmann’s death. The text reflects on the moment of death with longing anticipation. A gently-tolling bell part is peculiar to this haunting aria.

Bach’s first Leipzig cantata to celebrate the New Year came in 1724 and its unequivocally joyful text includes passages from Luther’s German Te Deum, psalm texts, and the New Year hymn ‘Jesu, nun seu gepreiset’ by Johannes Herman. The music is incomplete: however the surviving parts leave enough material for plausible reconstruction, and a relentlessly joyful cantata emerges with trumpets ceremonially adorning the final chorale.

Ton Koopman is the 2014 winner of the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize, presented in association with the Kohn Foundation.

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