Cantata BWV 24 is from Bach's first season in Leipzig. It is unusual in both shape and content. The cantata begins almost casually, with an appealing and bouncy alto aria with the violins and violas playing a tuneful and uncomplicated obbligato. The work is so lighthearted that the somewhat sinister equation of "truth" with "German" can be overlooked. There is an interesting palindrome structure to this work with the second and fourth numbers, the two recitatives in the work, providing rather lengthy meditations of the two polar ideas in the work, sincerity and hypocrisy. In between these little sermons is a very intense, jittery choral setting of the biblical passage for the day, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The sternness, even preachiness, in Bach's reading of this passage is surprising. The warm and expressive tenor aria with two obbligato oboes d'amore is a wonderful calming influence after the chorus. Perhaps the most beautiful thing in the cantata is the ravishing setting of "O Gott, du frommer Gott" that ends the cantata.

©Craig Smith

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