When Bach was Kapellmeister in Weimar, he was responsible for the composition of one cantata per month. In his time there he also wrote large-scale works for some of the major holidays, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. The librettist for most of Bach’s Weimar works was Salomo Franck, who doubled as the court poet and head of the mint. Franck was the finest poet that Bach ever collaborated with, and all of the Weimar works are notable for their passionate music and high literary quality.

The work begins with a joyful chorus with orchestra of trumpet and strings. As is typical of Bach’s early works the trumpet parts are mostly fanfares, the chorus reacts with suitably homophonic music. A simple fugue comprises the middle section of the work. The only recitative in the piece is an arioso setting of the passage from John for the bass. This leads into more fanfares from the trumpets accompanying the pomposo writing of the solo bass. The idea of the heavenly wind permeates the tenor aria, with its smoothly running violin part and gently expressive vocal line. Without a doubt, the high point of the cantata is the intricate, heavenly duet for soprano and alto with oboe obbligato. The complex metaphors and high literary quality of this marvelous text are paralleled by the detailed and elaborate voice parts. Woven into this texture is a highly ornamented version of the great Luther chorale, Komm Heiliger Geist. A beautiful setting of Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, with a high, descant first violin part ends the cantata.

©Craig Smith

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