BACH, J.S.: Cantatas, BWV 51 and 208 (Failoni Chamber Orchestra/ Hungarian Radio Choir/ Ingrid Kertesi/ Istvan Gati/ Jenõ Simon/ Jozsef Mukk/ Judit Nemeth/ Julia Paszthy/ Matyas Antal) (Naxos: 8.550643)
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208
The career of Johann Sebastian Bach, the most illustrious of aprolific musical family, falls neatly into three unequal parts. Born in 1685 in Eisenach,from the age of ten Bach lived and studied music with his elder brother in Ohrdruf, afterthe death of both his parents. After a series of appointments as organist and briefly as acourt musician, he became, in 1708, court organist and chamber musician to Duke WilhelmErnst of Weimar, the elder of the two brothers who jointly ruled the duchy. In 1714 he waspromoted to the position of Konzertmeister to the Duke, but in 1717, after a brief periodof imprisonment for his temerity in seeking to leave the Duke's service, he abandonedWeimar to become Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, a position heheld until 1723. From then until his death in 1750 he lived in Leipzig, where he wasThomaskantor, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches, in1729 assuming direction of the university collegium musicum, founded by Telemann in 1702.
At Weimar Bach had been principally employed as an organist,and his compositions of the period include a considerable amount written for theinstrument on which he was recognised as a virtuoso performer. At Cothen, where Pietisttraditions dominated the court, he had no church duties, and was responsible rather forcourt music. The period brought the composition of a number of instrumental works. Thefinal 27 years of Bach's life brought a variety of preoccupations, and while his officialemployment necessitated the provision of church music, he was able to provide music forthe university collegium musicum and to write or re-arrange a number of important worksfor the keyboard.
The cantata Jauchzet Gott inallen Landen, BWV 51, was written for performance on the Fifteenth Sunday afterTrinity, possibly 17th September 1730, in Leipzig. It is scored for a solo soprano,trumpet, strings and basso continuo. The splendid florid opening aria, with trumpetobbligato, is followed by an accompanied recitative, leading to an A minor aria in lilting12/8 metre. The cantata ends with a closing chorale and melismatic Alleluia, a vehicle for coloratura performance.
The secular cantata Was mirbehagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208, with a text by Salomo Franck, waswritten during Bach's employment at Weimar, commanded for the birthday of Duke Christianof Saxe-Weissenfels, celebrated in a hunting festival perhaps as early as 1713. Thecantata was later performed in honour of Duke Ernst August of Sachsen-Weimar, co-regentand nephew of the disapproving Duke Wilhelm Ernst, whose intransigence led in 1717 toBach's departure. The music of a later adaption in honour of the name-day of August III inthe 1740s has been lost. The cantata makes use of four singers, two sopranos, representingDiana and Pales, a tenor, Endymion, and a bass, Pan. The instruments involved include twocorni da caccia, recorders, two oboes and an oboe da caccia, basson, strings and continuo.
Diana, in an opening recitative, sings of the pleasures of thehunt, continuing, in an aria appropriately accompanied by the two hunting-horns, todeclare hunting the pleasure of the gods. The tenor Endymion in a recitative complainsthat Diana has deserted him for the hunt, with an elaborate melisma on the last word. Inthe succeeding aria, with continuo accompaniment, he asks if she has now turned away fromthe snares of love. Now Diana announces the importance of the day, on which Duke Christianis to be honoured, a declaration that persuades Endymion to join her in a celebratoryduet. Pan now offers his own tribute, in a recitative and a following pastoral ariaaccompanied by the three oboes. Pales, the goddess of sheep and flocks, follows suit, herrecitative leading to one of the best known of all arias, widely known in English as Sheep may safely graze, Schafe konnen sicher weiden, words that, in context,have no religious connotation. This is accompanied by two recorders, instrumentsassociated often with the pastoral. The four singers join together, with the instrumentalensemble, now without the recorders. The next aria is shared by Diana and Endymion,accompanied by a solo violin. The following aria,with basso continuo accompaniment only, is given to Pales, succeeded by a further aria for Pan. The cantataends with a final chorus for the whole company.
Failoni Chamber Orchestra
The Failoni Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1981 by members ofthe Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership of the violinist Bela Nagy,the orchestra has taken part in a number of important international festivals and inHungary only yields first place to the longer established Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra.
The orchestra takes its name from the distinguished Italian conductor Sergio Failoni,conductor of the Hungarian State Opera from 1928 until his death twenty years later.
Matyas Antal was born in 1945 into a family of musicians andcompleted his training at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest as a flautist and aconductor. In 1972, the year after his graduation, he joined the Hungarian State Orchestraas a flautist, but in the last ten years has been principally employed as a conductor,specialising initially in contemporary music. In 1984 he was appointed chorus-master ofthe Budapest Choir and two years later became associate conductor of the Hungarian StateOrchestra. He appears frequently as a conductor in his native country as well as in Eastand West Germany, Austria and Greece, and has made a number of recordings for Hungaroton.