Of Condemnations – J.S. Bach, Cantata BWV 185, at Trinity IV

When I first began to study the cantatas, now over twenty years ago, I was especially struck by how often Bach employed modest three-part structure, typically, voice, solo instrument, and continuo, and how much he did with it. In addition to the text, almost invariably important, and the meticulous attention to enunciation of it, the…

Of Redemption – J.S. Bach, Cantata BWV 21, at Trinity III

The sinfonia, which is utterly wonderful, clearly prefigures the mood of the opening lines in the succeeding chorus, namely Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen (My heart was sore distressed), uses an expressive oboe and violin cantilena, in dialogue, against weary footsteps, a heartbreakingly exquisite bass in the continuo, and sorrowful harmonies in the…

Domenico Ghirlandaio : Zachariah Writes Down the Name of his Son (circa 15 c.)

J.S. Bach – Cantata BWV 30, at the Feast of St John the Baptist

The preceding alto recitative explains how we are to reach the regions of the angels, and the alto aria exhorts the congregation to haste from guilt and wake from sin. This aria, with flute obbligato, is very quick and delightful, and has fine interplay between the singer and flautist, which progresses over a continuo directed…