For a while, I’ve considered Bach to be one of my favorite composers. Ever since starting to work on his Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, I found myself lost in the music and able to practice for hours, trying to work out the intricacies of the music and the difficult technique needed to play it. I love playing Bach’s solo violin works because they give me the space to tell a story, and the creative freedom to make it my own. My love of Bach drew me to Emmanuel Music, and when I started my internship, I was excited to work somewhere I could be surrounded by music that I cherish. When I started my Internship this semester, I was familiar with the Bach Cantatas, but the Bach that overwhelmed my perception was still the wandering and dissonant composer of the Sonatas and Partitas. But when I began experiencing the Cantatas week by week, I started to meet Bach in a new way. No longer was Bach this far away philosopher proving me vague instructions on how to practice creating line in a fugue. Instead he is a Cantor, leading the congregation in lessons through text and music. Bach is also no longer relegated to four strings, instead he is reaching his hands into every instrument and voice, and wrapping their sound around the entire sanctuary.
The more I listen and learn about Bach at Emmanuel Music, I’ve begun to think of vocal music, and especially the genre of Cantata, as Bach’s perfect medium. Nowhere is this clearer than BWV 14. Bach uses the instrumentation to the fullest extent possible, which allows the Cantata to erupt with intricacy as all of the different voices shine both independently and in various groups. This is evident right from the opening chorus, where when each theme enters, it is directly followed by its inversion in another voice. Though the opening chorus of the cantata is dense and can be overwhelming, I find it a reminder of Bach’s great homogenizing ability, as he is able to blend the baroque intensity of his part writing with a sometimes galant feel. I also feel like this piece is an illustration of Bach’s attitude towards life. In the text, we hear him acknowledge his and humanities place as lesser than, but not in a pessimistic way. He believes that god is above all and that to serve god is necessary, as we would be lost without Him. As the latest surviving Bach Cantata, BWV 14 shows that in this medium, Bach is able to express himself in a unique and dimensional way, leading me to understand him as a fuller composer and figure in my mind.