Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230, is perhaps the most mysterious in terms of its date and occasion of composition. It is certainly good enough to have been composed by Bach which makes the argument against its authenticity less compelling. The text comes from Psalm 117:1-2. It is the only motet set for four voice parts and an independent continuo line. Typically, each line of text is treated in a unique and colorful way (though perhaps less strikingly than in some of the other motets). The opening text is trumpeted out in an impressive fugue starting with the sopranos and working its way down to the basses. Billowing roulades on the word 'preiset ihn' (praise Him) soften up the edges a bit and one has to listen carefully for the sneaky reappearance of the opening line of text buried in the lower three voices. For the third and fourth line of text, Bach chooses first to set them as supple homophony, giving way to a gracious fugal writing. An infectious, dancing Alleluia concludes the motet.

© Michael Beattie

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