Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano

 

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Bach Cantata Notes

BWV 143

Bach Cantata BWV 143 is one of the few cantatas that cannot be dated with any certainty (1708-1714?), and its authenticity, claims Alfred Dürr, is doubtful. Nowhere else in the cantatas does Bach employ the combination of three corni di caccia, or hunting horns, (played today on modern trumpets) and drums. It is such a rousing and effective sound and having used and heard it once, why not again? The most revealing evidence questioning its authenticity comes from the lackluster quality of some of the writing.  However, with the tenor arias being first rate, perhaps Bach composed some parts of this cantata, but that others were added and/or adapted by unknown hands.

The opening chorus, a very short fanfare-like movement, is an example of this lack of invention.  Although harmonically somewhat stagnant, the voices enter in imitative fashion with energetic roulades.  The character and simplicity is reminiscent of the opening chorus to one of Bach’s earliest cantatas: BWV 71 Gott ist mein König. The chorale melody "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" appears three times in our cantata, but not, as is usual, in the opening chorus. In the second movement, the sopranos sing a simple version of the chorale over a tuneful and appealing violin obbligato typical of Bach. An unusually short tenor recitative follows, reinforcing the message of the chorale. The well-crafted tenor aria provides Bach with the types of images that he revelled in----a thousand misfortunes, terror, fear, death and enemies. Scored for solo violin with tutti string support, the tenor’s melodic line, convoluted and angular, reflects the severity of the text.

The unusually brief bass aria returns to the combination of three trumpets and drums. As in the opening chorus, the harmonic range is limited, but the sound is impressive and there is some effective interplay between the trumpets. The second aria for tenor is truly unique and engaging. The bassoon takes on a solo role, in duet with the continuo, while the upper strings play the chorale melody.  This interesting way of presenting the chorale tune, along with the interlocking descending scales of the bassoon and continuo, surround and embrace the tenor. The listener will notice the extended melisma on Schar - “Christ’s flock”, ascending to paradise.

The chorale makes its final appearance in the brilliant, glorious closing chorus full of rhythmic energy. The sopranos sing the chorale melody, a further plea for the Prince of Peace to continue to listen to us, while the lower voices punctuate it with a series of Alleluias. The harmonic motion is, again, somewhat uninventive, yet the writing for the three lower voices is a glimpse of the skill and variety Bach was to demonstrate in years to come.  

© Ryan Turner



Bach Cantata BWV 143 is one of the few cantatas that cannot be dated with any certainty. It has several unusual features. The only recitative is actually a biblical quote; thus the recitative style has no relation to the Italian operatic style extablished in Bach's first two years in Leipzig. The chorale melody "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" appears three times, but not, as is usual, in the opening chorus. The cantata begins with a short fanfare-like movement with the brass and strings playing brilliant roulades against the chorus coloratura. The sopranos then sing a simple version of the chorale over a tuneful and appealing obbligato of the violins. The recitative that follows sets up the gloomy text of the tenor aria. The music is actually much jollier than the text would indicate. The bass aria brings back the trumpets of the opening. The second tenor aria is interesting as a duet between the bassoon and the continuo. On top of this all of the strings play the chorale tune. The chorale makes its final appearance in the brilliant, glorious chorus that closes this brief and interesting cantata.

©Craig Smith