Timothy Murphy

Bass Baritone

Bach Cantatas – BWV 56, 235

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  • Price: £13
  • Date: Sun, Nov 02, 2014
  • Time: 12:00 - 13:00
  • Venue: London
  • Location: Duke's Hall, Royal Academy of Music

Choir of Royal Academy of Music

JS Bach Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56 (Gladly shall I bear the cross)

JS Bach Mass in G minor, BWV 235

Iain Ledingham director
Margaret Faultless leader
Performed on historical instruments

‘Ich will den Kreutzstab gerne tragen’ BWV 56 was first performed on 27th October 1726. The reputation of this famous work rests not only on the unusual intensity of Bach’s music, but also on the density and subtlety of its text — one of the finest in the entire canon. The staff of the cross, the burden gladly carried by the Christian in the opening aria, becomes the mast of a ship — the symbol for the Christian’s journey from Earthly life to eternal life — in the second movement. The safe arrival in harbour becomes a metaphor for a Christian death in the fourth movement, and in the final chorale Christ is seen as the pilot guiding the Christian soul home through the salvation of the cross, bringing the allegory full circle — itself a sign of the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice.

In common with his other ‘Lutheran’ masses, Bach’s G minor Mass consists only of the Kyrie eleison and the Gloria in excelsis Deo and draws on the music of earlier cantatas. In this case Bach parodied movements from ‘Herr, deine Augen sehen’ (BWV 102) for the Kyrie, and movements from ‘Alles nur nach Gottes Wille’ (BWV 72) and ‘Es wartet alles auf dich’ (BWV 187) for the five sections of the Gloria. The seeming inevitability of the new setting of this music is testament not only to Bach’s powers of selection, but also to his genius for adaptation. For example, the awe-inspiring scale and penitential tone of the opening chorus of BWV 102 is given a further intensification by the added agogic weight of the rhythmic tweaks necessary to set the words ‘Kyrie eleison’.