The Twelfth Sunday after the Trinity was the day when the town elections were celebrated. Because of the heightened nature of the celebration Bach always had at his disposal trumpets and drums in addition to the usual winds and strings. The setting of the first words from Psalm 103 that opens this cantata thus speaks not only to the curing of the deaf man in the Gospel reading for this day but a general rejoicing at the beginning of the new political year. This chorus is one of the grandest and most spacious of Bach's trumpet choruses. The refulgence of the musical material and the broad design of the opening orchestral tutti make it clear that we are in for a large event. On first sight the text looks like a very generic line of rejoicing, but notice the variety of articulation that Bach achieves with the opening "Lobets" and the wonderful sighing motif that comes to the fore on the word "Vergiss"(forget).

The Gospel speaks of making the deaf and dumb man hear and speak. The speaking metaphor dominates the soprano recitative that follows. The splendor of the opening chorus is in stark contrast to the delicate tracery of the recorder and English horn obbligati in the following tenor aria. This exotic instrumental combination is the perfect foil to the massiveness of the chorus.The work darkens with the grave yet delicate bass aria. This aria is, unusually for the first cantata cycle, in an elegant French style. Bach illustrates the "watchful care" of the Redeemer with long notes in the singer that are almost like protective tents to the melancholy instrumental parts. The tone of this aria is so surprisingly deep after the brilliance of the opening that, as usual, Bach leads us in a direction we never thought was possible at the opening of the piece. A warm and particularly appealing harmonization of "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" ends the work.

©Craig Smith

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