Bach cantatas for season opening

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SIMON Lindley loves his Bach cantatas and has chosen to open the Sheffield Bach Choir’s post-diamond jubilee season with a concert of five of them at Sheffield Cathedral this Saturday.

They include the famous one for soprano, No 51 Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! – Praise God in all Lands! – “a chance to showcase the Bach Choir’s long-serving and very distinguished resident soprano soloist, Jenny Leadbeater,” says Simon.

With its obbligato trumpet part, it’s well known enough to preclude further comment, unlike the other four cantatas, which are far from inferior offerings.

They are, in numerical order: No 9 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her – It is the salvation to us come hither; No 70 Wachet, betet, seid bereit – Watch, pray, be prepared; No 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele – Jesus, Thou who my soul; and No 118 O Jesu Christ, mein lebens licht – O Jesus Christ, my life’s light.

“The music of No 9 (text-wise, a Lutheran dogma affair) is glorious and contains one of Bach’s most magnificent vocal duets – a canon between soprano and alto of immense ingenuity and huge beauty,” enthuses Simon.

There is an absolutely delightful soprano/ alto duet in No 78 following the opening movement, one of Bach’s greatest, most majestically poignant choral movements.

“This cantata claims a place in our concert as being quite one of the very finest of the great man’s cantatas,” asserts Simon.

“It could be argued that its first movement, a passacaglia in the same way as Purcell’s glorious ‘Dido’s Lament,’ has only one equal, the opening of Sleepers Wake (Cantata 140).

“No 70’s first movement may be described as ‘concerto’ for chorus and the arias are utterly brilliant in focus.”

Indeed they are, including a superb one for the tenor in Handelian style but unmistakably Bach and a recitative and aria for the bass soloist that are truly magnificent.

Simon describes the short No 118 as “a single-movement motet-type cantata with fabulously rich string accompaniment and almost certainly written for a funeral.”