Today’s cantata dates from Bach's third season in Leipzig. It was written for the festival of St. Michael celebrated on September 29th. This is the only day in the Liturgical year where the principal reading is from Revelation. The vivid and imaginative rendering of the battle between St. Michael and Satan always brings from Bach his most glorious and brazen music. This holiday is the only one of the year when all of the cantatas call for trumpets and drums in addition to the usual oboes and strings.For all of its brilliance, this is the most interior of all of the Michaelmas cantatas. The opening chorus is an airborne heavenly thing with the trumpets providing a silvery brilliance rather than their usual military overtones. The bass aria provides a vivid depiction of Satan‚s fall to hell. The soprano aria provides a new tone to the cantata. Here the sweetness of the depiction of the Angels is surpassingly warm and lovable. The duet for alto and tenor with sparkling bassoon obbligato is another highpoint of this wonderful cantata. The bassoon provides the perfect picture of the lonely watchman making his rounds. The work ends with a beautiful harmonization of the heavenly chorale, “Herzlich lieb.”

©Craig Smith

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