The cantata BWV 32 is perhaps the most perfect of all of the Bach "Dialogue" cantatas. The story of the twelve-year-old Jesus is here turned into a sophisticated dialogue between Christ and the soul. Here, Mary's panic when she discovers Jesus is lost becomes the soul's panic at the loss of Jesus. The child Jesus is made a bass voice further abstracting this very personal and parochial story. The opening aria for soprano, oboe and strings is one of the great heavenly laments in all of Bach. Over calm string arpeggios the oboe weaves a chromatic and poignant melody. The soprano soon joins and the two weave amazingly expressive garlands over the inexorable strings. The bass voice Jesus asks why Mary is searching for him; doesn't she know that he is about his father's business? This beautiful arioso becomes an aria with solo violin, describing his father's mansions. The story of the twelve-year-old Jesus has always been associated with Psalm 84. In the following duet arioso, Jesus and Mary sing lines from that Psalm leading into the wonderful duet with oboe and strings. Here a bouncy, yodeling motive that is both sung and played dominates the sparkling rhythmic drive. A simple four-voice version of "Freu dich sehr" concludes the work.

©Craig Smith

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