Bach Cantata BWV 49 dates from Bach’s fourth season in Leipzig. By this time Bach was rather disheartened by the level of playing in the orchestra and began to feature the organ as the principal instrument. Also by this time his son Carl Phillip Emmanuel was old enough to be playing keyboard continuo. The work begins with an arrangement for organ of the third movement of the E major Harpsichord Concerto. Bach has added oboe d’amore to the strings of the concerto.

Bach has taken the parable of the wedding feast and made it the basis for a complex and textured dialogue between Jesus and the Soul. Both the father’s search for wedding guests and the husband’s search for a wife become metaphors for the searching of the soul for Christ. The opening aria takes the beautiful passage from the Song of Songs and turns it into an aria of longing for bass with elaborate organ obbligato. The dialogue that follows for bass (Jesus) and soprano (Soul) gets at the core of the message: the state of grace achieved with the communion of the Soul and Christ. A beautiful aria for soprano, oboe d’amore, viola and continuo follows. This is one of the very great Bach arias. There is further dialogue between the Soul and Christ that leads into the marvelous duet that closes the cantata. Here the voice of Jesus speaks of the consummation of the marriage. The soprano sings a verse of the chorale, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.”

©Craig Smith

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