During his third season at Leipzig, Bach began to experiment with the new galant style, then in vogue in northern Germany. Bach's dense and detailed cadences, generated from the Italian concerto style, became clearer and simpler. More importantly there is, in the works using this manner, a clearer and more block-like phrasing. For all of his interest and work on this manner of composing, one cannot really say that it shows a new direction, but rather yet another style at his disposal. It appears in its purest form in the elegant and elegiac Trauerode cantata, BWV 198. At the same time there is no suggestion of it in the contemporaneous St. Matthew Passion.

In our cantata's first movement the new manner is manifested by the very clear blocky question-and-answer phrases in the orchestra. The choral writing is unusually lucid and not very contrapuntal. This new style is, perhaps, surprising in a treatment of one of the great old Lutheran chorales, a work that had already been marvelously set in the old manner in Cantata BWV 99.

The beautiful soprano aria with oboe obbligato is very chromatic in its harmonic language, but assumes a kind of gloomy melancholy rather than the tortured quality that these harmonies produce in his earlier works. The final bass aria is interesting in that the gallant orchestral style is used with a new chorale tune, here elaborated upon and made into an aria rather than a typical chorale setting. Again, it is rather typical of the chorale settings of the next generation of German liturgical composers.

©Craig Smith

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