Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Blogging the Bach Cantatas: Advent I

One of my formative experiences as a musician was heading to the Calgary Public Library in the summer of 1990 and taking out the Karl Richter cycle of the Bach Cantatas. I listened to them all that summer, back when I had the kind of time a teenager passionate about, uh, Bach, has.

So when I started blogging, I wondered how to recapture that magic of 18 years ago, except in blog form.

So here's what I'm going to do, beyond hoping that doing this will qualify me for all the classical music blog rankings - I'm going to write a blog post on every Bach cantata in the cycle. I can't listen to them all in the space of 2 months, but over a year?

Do I know what form these posts will take? Nope. I guess we will see what happens. So here goes. I also know this post is a few days late, but better a few days than using it as an excuse to stall for another year...I also hope they get better. I suspect you will too.


The Richter cycle begins with BWV 61. Advent does not begin with heads bowed, nor in quiet contemplation. From his Weimar years, the opening movement instead proclaims the arrival

der Heiden Heiland
Der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt
Des sich wundert alle Welt
Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt.

The beauty of the tenor aria is only matched by the banality of its text

Komm, Jesu, komm zu deiner
Und gib ein selig neues Jahr!
Befördre deines Namens Ehre
Erhalte die gesunde Lehre
Und segne Kanzel und Altar!

There's nothing like the German imperative...Jesus, get in here! How many times have I heard that before?

The soprano aria, however, although also beautiful, also fails to really get us anywhere. The final chorus, however, well, it just kicks, well, you know (these are church cantatas....)

Anyway, I know this probably isn't what you were expecting, but, it's my blog, and I can assure you that this series will rise above the usual banalities, unlike this cantata, which just bookends them.

I hope.

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