Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano


uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...



Bach Cantata Notes


Most of the Bach cantatas for Easter Monday and Tuesday are recycled from earlier works, sometimes from secular pieces. The one striking exception is the grand Easter Tuesday cantata BWV 6 "Bleib bei uns." The opening chorus is in what is called the "madrigal" style. Here the chorus sings mostly homophonically against a simple but striking orchestration. The other two prominent examples of this style are the closing choruses of the St. John and St. Matthew Passions. In fact, this chorus so resembles those works that it could be the final chorus of a lost Passion setting. In any case it is a deeply moving statement of fear and isolation. The beautiful alto aria with English Horn obbligato offers consolation. The five-string violincello piccolo is Bach's favorite obbligato string instrument. He uses it for the elaborate obbligato to the soprano chorale melody "Ach, bleib bei uns." After a bass recitative the marvelous insistent tenor aria with strings brings back the anxiety of the opening chorus. The cantata ends with Bach's only harmonization of the familiar chorale "Beweis dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ."

©Craig Smith

Bach Cantata BWV 6 begins with one of his most serious and moving choruses, resembling the closing choruses from both the Matthew and John Passions. The madrigal style of the A section is in contrast to the dense counterpoint of the B section, with its hammerstroke long notes on the words "Bleib' bei uns." The noble alto aria, with its beautiful English horn obbligato, is both a complete contrast to and a continuation of the thinking of the chorus. The chorale setting for soprano with cello obbligato appears in the famous Schubler chorale collection arranged for organ. The cello part is one of Bach's most difficult and virtuosic instrumental solos. The melanchola tenor aria, with its insistent downward appoggiatura, brings back some of the urgency of the opening chorus. The chorale, written for Easter Monday, is more closely associated with Lent for modern audiences.

©Craig Smith