Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

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Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 44

Sie werden euch in den Bann tun I, BWV 44 is the first of two settings of the quotation forming the text of the first two movements of this cantata, the other being the opening movement of BWV 183. In BWV 44 Bach sets the first two lines of text as a tenor/bass duet followed, without break, by a turba chorus.  Somewhat surprisingly, in BWV 183 he presents it quite minimally as an accompanied recitative.

The theme of this cantata is principally one of heresy, false teaching and the combating of these abominable doctrines. In John 16, Jesus prophesies the persecution of his disciples by those who know not God or Himself. There is a tough, almost hard-bitten quality about BWV 44. The clangorous, hectoring tenor-bass duet with two obbligato oboes runs directly into an even more frenetic little chorus filled with paranoia and fear. Notice how Bach creates a menacing chromatic texture of sustained notes underpinned by unexpected harmonies on the text wer euch tötet (whosoever murders you).

The alto aria with obbligato oboe yields a hint of release in the gloom and agitation with an almost catatonic dread.  The chorale for tenor and continuo is one of the strangest harmonizations in all of Bach. This central chorale is so forward looking that it seems almost to pre-empt harmonies of the twentieth century. As Julian Mincham notes, “there seems little doubt that the byzantine bass line represents the difficult road and the human effort needed to travel and surmount the narrow pathway of torment to heaven.”

The turning point in the cantata comes in the bass recitative encouraging the individual to prevail. The soprano aria weakly tries to emerge from the gloom with a brighter tone and employment of ebullient skips that Schweitzer calls Bach’s “joy motive.” The middle section, depicting the storms our troubled soul must weather, triumphantly emerges in the smiling joy of the sun.  The final chorale is well known, versions of it appearing in both the St. Matthew and St. John Passions.  This beautiful, yet personal harmonization of "Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen" is the only hint at a benediction in the piece.

© Craig Smith, with additions and edits by Ryan Turner


BWV 44

There is a tough, almost hard-bitten quality about Bach Cantata BWV 44. The clangorous, hectoring tenor-bass duet with two obbligato oboes runs directly into an even more frenetic little chorus filled with paranoia and fear. The agitation is replaced in the alto aria with obbligato oboe by an almost catatonic dread.  The chorale for tenors and continuo is one of the strangest harmonizations in all of Bach. The soprano aria weakly tries for a brighter tone, but still has in its makeup a deeply troubled soul.  The beautiful harmonization of "Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen" is the only hint at a benediction in the piece.

©Craig Smith