Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Cantatas

Sunday, 22.03.2015 12:00, Duke’s Hall

JS Bach Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe, BWV 25 (There is no soundness in my flesh)
JS Bach Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind, BWV 153 (Behold, dear God, how my enemies)
JS Bach Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 686 (Out of the depths I cry to thee)
JS Bach Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 38 (Out of the depths I cry to Thee)

Iain Ledingham director
Margaret Faultless leader

Performed on period instruments

View PDF brochure of our Bach 2015 season 

Jemima Stephenson organ

Bach’s first cycle in Leipzig included ‘Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe’ BWV 25, composed for 29th August 1723. The opening chorus, one of three cases in which Bach writes for three recorders, is a structural masterpiece. Chorale quotations in the continuo are weaved within a web of elaborate counterpoint; a double fugue in the choir is dramatically reinforced by three trombones and cornett which provide interjections of four-part chorale. Bach contrasts such density with moments of transparency: a bass aria describing leprosy and boils is plaintive and lucid, yet bubbles with rhythmic energy.

Written for 2nd January 1724, ‘Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind’ BWV 153 is inspired by the Sunday Gospel and describes enemies of the Christians. The opening is particularly unusual. Bach does not open with a grand or solemn chorus, like so many other cantatas, but instead with a plain four-part chorale. Indeed, the choir is assigned only plain chorale settings, and the rest of the ensemble is similarly restricted in scope. Such limitations, however, allow for splendid moments of intimacy. Bach uses the two arias to contrast earth and heaven, and their theological counterparts of suffering and comfort. Unison strings create the tumultuous atmosphere of stress and strain in the tenor aria, whilst the alto aria soothes with gentle minuet rhythms — enlivened by a spirited Allegro section.

Martin Luther’s hymn of 1524, a paraphrase of Psalm 130, forms the basis of Bach’s chorale cantata ‘Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir’ BWV 38. Written for 29th October 1724, the text reflects the Sunday Gospel’s themes of a call for help in times of deep distress. Bach emphasises the austerity of the text through the motet-style arrangement. The antiquated atmosphere is also achieved through dense counterpoint and a particular attention to motivic development. The organicism of the vocal and instrumental writing is almost Beethovenian, with melodic intervals deriving from the chorale tunes. Such contrapuntal craft is highlighted in the soprano recitative in which the bass-line is a chorale.

Tickets £13 (concessions £10), season discounts available, on sale online now, by telephone 020 7873 7300 (weekdays, 10.00am–4.00pm).

Each cantata concert begins at midday and lasts around one hour. The Academy’s restaurant will be open for light refreshments from 10.30am until the start of each concert.

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