Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...
PDme

 

 

Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 136

The subtle and marvelously colored chorus that begins the cantata is typical of the extreme care that Bach took with his texts. The two operative words here are "erforsche" (to examine) and "prüfe" (to prove). The beautifully meandering wind and string lines literally examine the harmony of the opening. The passionate and beautiful syncopated chords on the words "to prove" are the logical result and extension of that examination. The extremely high and exotic horn writing adds to the otherworldly beauty of the movement. It is not the celebratory or commemorative, ‘trumpets and drums’ sort of festive proclamation, rather an open, carefree, perhaps almost teasing invitation----come, search me and know my innermost thoughts.

The tenor recitative, essentially a rant against hypocrisy, is so laden with metaphor that it can be confusing to read on the page. However, Bach’s two part structure makes it very clear. The alto aria with oboe d’amore is so spare it at times sounds as if there is a part missing. The cool, walking bass becomes almost hypnotic and the aria, as the central movement of the cantata, turns out to be a frightening picture of the last judgment when sentence shall be passed and hypocrisy will tremble and be destroyed under His zeal. The aria is unusually constructed, a presto middle section portraying the enthusiastic destruction of guile enclosed by more measured and sober outer sections.

The bass recitative ushers in the main theme of the cantata to beware of false prophets. The bass and tenor voices combined with the manic, insistent violins create a vivid and frightening portrait of those false prophets. The repetitive wailing of the voices about the fall of Adam is haunting and in the end amazingly ambiguous in its tone. A harmonization of Wo soll ich fliehen hin with the first violins playing an obbligato fifth voice ends the work grandly.

© Craig Smith, with additions by Ryan Turner

 


The subtle and marvelously colored chorus that begins the Cantata BWV 136 is typical of the extreme care that Bach took with his texts. The two operative words here are "erforsche" (to examine) and "prüfe" (to prove). The beautifully meandering wind and string lines literally examine the harmony of the opening. The passionate and beautiful syncopated chords on the words "to prove" are the logical result and extension of that examination. The exotic A trumpet adds to the otherworldly beauty of the movement. The tenor recitative is so laden with metaphor that it can be confusing to read on the page. Bach’s two part structure makes it very clear however. The alto aria with oboe d’amore is so spare it at times sounds as if there is a part missing. The cool, walking bass becomes almost hypnotic and the work turns out to be a frightening picture of the last judgment.
The bass recitative ushers in the main theme of the cantata Matthew’s exhortation to beware of false prophets. The bass and tenor voices combined with the manic, insistent violins create a vivid and frightening portrait of those false prophets. The repetitive wailing of the voices about the fall of Adam is haunting and in the end amazingly ambiguous in its tone. A harmonization of "Auf meinen lieben Gott" with the first violins playing an obbligato fifth voice ends the work grandly.

©Craig Smith