Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...
PDme

 

 

Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 73

The cantata BWV 73, composed in 1724 in Leipzig, begins as an unsolvable knot, which in the course of the piece unravels to produce music of the greatest peace and comfort. The Gospel reading – Matthew 8:1-13, for which our cantata was conceived, speaks of the faith of the Centurion. The reading emphasizes the lessons that can be learned from the faith of a Gentile. The issue of undying faith becomes the issue that is repeatedly hammered home in this text.

The work begins with a chorus that is as single-minded and thunderous as the famous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The oft-repeated motif in both the horn and the chorus actually resembles the “fate” motif in the symphony and functions in exactly the same way. The hard-hitting chorale theme is troped by some of the most emotional and over-the-top recitatives in all of Bach. The chorus ends without musical or emotional resolution. The gently descending oboe line that begins the tenor aria acts like the dove descending and bringing a balm to mankind. It is one of the most striking releases of tension in all of Bach. The middle section of the aria is like a memory of the despair of the opening chorus. The bass recitative and aria go even deeper. The recitative sets up education and submission to God’s will as the only hope of salvation. The aria is, unusually, a set of three quatrains, a form rare in the Bach cantatas. Our opening chorus motif, “Herr wie du willt” has been transformed into something malleable and plastic, one can almost see the soul descending into submission. The magical funeral bells – string  pizzicati- in the third verse are unbearably poignant. A direct and affirming verse of the chorale, “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen” ends the cantata.

© Craig Smith, with Ryan Turner


 

The cantata BWV 73 begins as an unsolvable knot, which in the course of the piece unravels to produce music of the greatest peace and comfort. The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany consists of two stories, the healing of the Leper and more importantly, for our cantata, the faith of the Centurion. The reading emphasizes the lessons that can be learned from the faith of a non-Jew. This story became important in the later schism in the church between those that wanted Christianity to be reserved for those that were Jews and those that believed that the faith was for all people. The issue of undying faith becomes the issue that is repeatedly hammered home in this text.

The work begins with a chorus that is as single-minded and thunderous as the famous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The oft-repeated motif in both the horn and the chorus actually resembles the “fate” motif in the symphony and functions in exactly the same way. The hard-hitting chorale theme is troped by some of the most emotional and over-the-top recitatives in all of Bach. The chorus ends without musical or emotional resolution. The gently descending oboe line that begins the tenor aria acts like the dove descending and bringing a balm to mankind. It is one of the most striking releases of tension in all of Bach. The middle section of the aria is like a memory of the despair of the opening chorus. The bass recitative and aria go even deeper. The recitative sets up education and submission to God’s will as the only hope of salvation. The aria is, unusually, a set of three quatrains, a form rare in the Bach cantatas. Our opening chorus motif, “Herr wie du willt” has been transformed into something malleable and plastic, one can almost see the soul descending into submission. The magical funeral bells in the third verse are unbearably poignant. A quiet verse of the chorale, “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen” ends the cantata.

©Craig Smith