Bach Cantatas – BWV 166, 152, 102
- Date: Sun, Feb 16, 2014
- Time: 12:00 - 13:00
- Venue: London
- Location: Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music
Choir of Royal Academy of Music
Iain Ledingham director
Madeleine Easton leader
Performed on historical instruments
Wo gehest du hin?, BWV 166 (Whither goest thou?);
Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152 (Tread the path of faith);
Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!, BWV 102 (Lord, are not Thine eyes upon the truth!)
‘Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn’ BWV 152 sets a libretto by Salamo Frank based on Chapter 2 of St Luke’s Gospel. First performed on the Sunday after Christmas — 30th December 1714 — in the Himmelsburg Weimar, it has a chamber-like delicacy and musical finesse typical of Bach’s cantatas of this period. Its exquisite instrumental complement of flute, oboe, viola d’amore, viola da gamba and continuo sets the musical agenda in a dazzling French-style ouverture. The 29-year-old composer put on a virtuoso display for his discerning court audience in the solo vocal numbers too. Most memorable of all is the soprano aria ‘Stein, der über alle Schätze’, a luxuriant, rapt outpouring of melody for the voice with obbligato
flute and viola d’amore.
‘Wo gehest du hin?’ BWV 166 was first performed on the fourth Sunday after Easter, 7 May 1724, during Bach’s first year in Leipzig. The text, which relates to chapter 16 of St John’s Gospel, looks forward to the forthcoming feast of the Ascension. For a work of relatively modest dimensions, using only solo voices apart from the closing chorale, it contains an impressive variety of musical styles. For example, the final aria evokes the dance steps and solid bourgeois textures of the contemporary polonaise, while the central movement is a severe chorale prelude for soprano and violin. Pick of the bunch is the intense and chromatic tenor aria ‘Ich will an den Himmel denken’ that contemplates life after death to the accompaniment of intricate obbligato parts for oboe and violin.
‘Herr, deine Augen sehen’ BWV 102 was composed for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, which fell on 25th August in 1726. It uses a text drawn from a cantata cycle earlier set by the composer’s cousin Johann Ludwig Bach. The subject, God’s justice for the unrepentant sinner, alludes to the day’s scripture readings in the Book of Jeremiah and St Luke’s Gospel. It drew forth an uncompromising response: the music is conceived on an epic scale, even for Bach. With his customary sound judgement, the composer especially valued this work and parodied several of its movements in his ‘Lutheran’ Masses, increasing its chance of a lasting posterity. The opening chorus became the Kyrie of the Mass in G minor, and the alto and tenor arias were adapted as the Qui tollis and Quoniam of the Mass in F.