BACH, J.S.: Cantatas, BWV 80 and 147
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV147
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 principallyemployed as an organist, and his compositions of the period include a considerable amountwritten for the instrument on which he was recognised as a virtuoso performer. At Cothen,where Pietist traditions dominated the court, he had no church duties, and was responsiblerather for court music. The period brought the composition of a number of instrumentalworks. The final 27 years of Bach's life brought a variety of preoccupations, and whilehis official employment necessitated the provision of church music, he was able to providemusic for the university collegium musicum and or write or re-arrange a number ofimportant works for the keyboard.
The ReformationCantata, Ein feste Burg, BWV 80, was adapted from an earlier cantata, Alles, was von Gott geboren, of which the music hasbeen lost. This was written for performance at Weimar on the Third Sunday of Lent in 1715,with a text by Salomo Franck, secretary, librarian and poet at the court. The new cantatahas been variously dated. Some have suggested as early a date as 31st October 1724 andthere is a surviving autograph fragment from a year earlier, relatively soon after Bach'sassumption of his new duties in Leipzig. Others have dated the complete surviving revisionof the cantata to 1730, the date of celebration of the 200th anniversary of the AugsburgConfession.
The cantata, scored for oboes,including oboe d'amore, oboe da caccia and cor anglais, strings and basso continuo, withsoprano, alto, tenor and bass singers, opens with a polyphonic treatment of the firstverse of Martin Luther's well known hymn, Ein festeBurg, using the four voices, with oboes, strings and continuo. The aria thatfollows combines the soprano statement of the second verse, in aversion of the originalchorale melody, with Franck's words sung by the bass. The aria is introduced by the upperstrings in unison over the continuo, leading to an oboe aria, Komm in meinem Herzenshaus, with its economical bassocontinuo accompaniment. The instrumental ensemble of two oboe d'amore, cor anglais,appearance of a matching version of Luther's third stanza, sung by all the singers inunison. The following tenor recitative and duet for alto and tenor, with its oboe dacaccia and solo violin accompaniment, Wie selig sinddoch dir, use words by Franck. The final chorale is a magnificent statement ofBach's monumental harmonization of the original hymn.
The cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, againrepresents an original work from Bach's period at the court of Weimar. With a text byFranck, it was first written for performance on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 20thDecember, 1716. Again the original music has been lost and the surviving version wasintended for use in Leipzig on the Feast of the Visitation, 2nd July, possibly in 1723.
The work is scored for soprano, oboe da caccia, strings and basso continuo.
The opening polyphonic chorus, with its virtuoso clarinotrumpet obbligato leads to an accompanied tenor recitative, followed by the alto aria Schame dich, with its oboe d'amore and continuoaccompaniment. A bass recitative is succeeded by a soprano aria with a triplet solo violinobbligato, Bereite dir, Jesu. The first partof the work ends with a chorale, one of the best known of all Bach cantata movements, inwhich the trumpet accompanies the chorale melody. The second part starts with a tenoraria, Hilf, Jesu, hilf, leading to an altorecitative, with words based on the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. This isfollowed by the bass aria, Ich will von Jesu Wundensingen, with accompanying trumpet and oboes doubling the violins. The familiarchorale returns in all its confident grandeur in conclusion.
Matyas Antal was born in 1945 into afamily of musicians and completed his training at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest asa flautist and a conductor. In 1972, the year after his graduation, he joined theHungarian State Orchestra as a flautist, but in the last ten years has been principallyemployed as a conductor, specialising initially in contemporary music. In 1984 he wasappointed chorus-master of the Budapest Choir and two years later became associateconductor of the Hungarian State Orchestra. He appears frequently as a conductor in hisnative country as weIl as in East and West Germany, Austria and Greece, and has made anumber of recordings for Hungaroton.
Failoni Chamber Orchestra
The Failoni Chamber Orchestra wasfounded in 1981 by members of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership ofthe violinist Bela Nagy, the orchestra has taken part in a number of importantinternational festivals and in Hungary only yields first place to the longer establishedFerenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra takes its name from the distinguishedItalian conductor Sergio Failoni, conductor of the Hungarian State Opera from 1928 untilhis death twenty years later.