The Feast of the Circumcision is celebrated on New Year’s Day. This impressive cantata was written for that occasion. Cantata 171 has, as an opening chorus, a big work with oboes, trumpets, and strings. It is most well known as the first version of the second chorus in the Credo of the Mass in b minor. It is followed by a brilliant tenor aria with violins. A quiet alto recitative leads into an intimate and gentle aria for soprano with violin solo. This is one of the great soprano arias and one of the most beautiful and most brilliant violin obbligati in all of Bach. A long bass recitative, that alternates between recitative and arioso, leads us into the bravura setting of the chorale “Jesu, nun sei gepreiset” with trumpet fanfares between the phrases.

©Craig Smith

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