Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

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Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 90

Cantata BWV 90, Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende, dates from Bach’s first season in Leipzig. The two large arias that make up the body of this work take a different tack on the end of the world. There is nothing in all of Bach that matches the sheer ferocity of the first aria for tenor with strings. The rushing scales and the clangorous open d strings of the violins are in contrast to the halting, yelping tenor part. The sudden pauses and precipitous leaps in the voice part all contribute to the overwhelming sense of panic in the piece. While Bach could have composed a tempestuous chorus, there is something more pointed, dramatic and personal about the harried voice of solo tenor railing against the hammering blows of the strings.

Now that the worst-case scenario has been presented, the alto recitative is somewhat calmer, leading us to an alternative. The bass aria with trumpet and strings is more poised than the tenor aria, but gives a ringing and specific picture of the last trumpet. Moving us back to a point of reassurance is the tenor recitative. The setting of Vater unser im Himmelreich that ends the cantata might be more familiar to listeners as the fifth movement of the St. John Passion where it carries a similar prayer for the Lord of all creation to bestow His good will upon us and save His vengeance for those who seek to thwart Him. Our cantata ends with very much the same entreaty, and perhaps the most startling deceptive cadence in all of Bach. The mention of Satan’s influence that ends the penultimate phrase casts a brief cold shadow over the blessed moment.

© Craig Smith, adapted by Ryan Turner


Bach Cantata BWV 90 dates from his first season in Leipzig. Written for the end of the Trinity season, the work, like all of the late Trinity pieces, has a strong eschatological cast. The two large arias that make up the body of this work take a different tack on the end of the world. There is nothing in all of Bach that matches the sheer ferocity of the first aria for tenor with strings. The rushing scales and the clangorous open d strings of the violins are in contrast to the halting, yelping tenor part. The sudden pauses and precipitous leaps in the voice part all contribute to the overwhelming sense of panic in the piece. The alto recitative is somewhat calmer. The bass aria with trumpet and strings is more poised than the tenor aria, but gives a ringing and specific picture of the last trumpet. The setting of Vater unser im Himmelreich that ends this cantata contains what is perhaps the most startling deceptive cadence in all of Bach.

©Craig Smith