The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes, unknown artist, St. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

On the 7th Sunday after Trinity, July 11 in 1723, Bach again (just like last week for Mariä Heimsuchung) reworked a short Advent cantata from Weimar into a two-part cantata for Leipzig, adding recitatives and a closing chorale at the end of each half. but this time he also changed the texts of the arias a bit, to better match the Gospel for this Sunday: Jesus feeding the four thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fishes (Mark 8: 1-9).

What is interesting to me is that the version from Weimar, for the third Sunday of Advent, was based on a Gospel text about John the Baptist (believed to be the person paving the way for Jesus), and that, now in Leipzig, Bach had just finished two cantatas related to  John the Baptist and his mother (see my previous posts).

So I would like to think that, instead of possibly needing to use the Weimar cantata because of being overwhelmed with all the work in his first months in Leipzig, perhaps Bach thought it entirely appropriate to perform this particular cantata at this time, directly after the two weeks of holidays related to St. John.

I recommend the recording of this cantata 186 Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht by Bach Collegium Japan, with soprano Miah Persson, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, bass Peter Kooij, and the noteworthy continuo of Hidemi Suzuki (Baroque cello) and Naoko Imai (organ). Listen to this recording on Spotify.

Read the German text with English translations here.

The opening chorus, unchanged from the Weimar version, plays on the text from the Matthew Gospel about John the Baptist. While John is in prison, he wonders if Jesus is really the Messiah, since he has not displayed any godly or royal character (hence no trumpet in this cantata!), and if it had been worth it to work on his behalf. Jesus then sends some of his disciples to deliver the message “Don’t you be annoyed with me.”

Just as in cantata 147, the arias are absolutely beautiful, and again I can see that the Duke of Weimar didn’t want to let Bach go to Köthen in 1716. The tenor aria is very charming,  the bass aria very cool with the organ accompaniment, and the soprano aria is amazing: a very virtuoso voice part with a string accompaniment that loops back to the chromatic lines from the opening chorus.

Wieneke Gorter, July 3, 2016.