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First page of Bach’s original score for cantata 64 Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget for the Third Day of Christmas. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Amalienbibliothek), Berlin.

The third cantata of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was very popular in our house, and it was my sister’s all-time favorite. That is probably why I had never heard the beautiful cantata 64 Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget before doing research for this blog, even though it has trombones in the opening chorus and in all three (!) chorales, and Peter Jelosits is singing the soprano aria on the Harnoncourt recording.

Listen to Bach Collegium Japan’s recording of cantata 64 on Spotify. Soloists: Yukari Nonoshita, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Peter Kooij, bass. With Concerto Palatino: Yoshimichi Hamada, cornetto; Simen van Mechelen, Charles Toet, and Wim Becu, trombones.

Find the text here, and the score here.

Bach wrote this cantata in 1723 and the structure, with the three chorales, is very similar to cantata 40 from yesterday, written that same year.

During his four-week  Advent Break that first year in Leipzig (he repeated a Weimar cantata on the first Sunday of Advent, and was not to perform any music in the churches for the next three Sundays), Bach wrote six new cantatas for the period from December 26, 1723, to January 9, 1724 (cantatas 40, 64, 190, 153, 65, and 154). But that was not all. For Christmas Day 1723, he supplemented cantata 63 from Weimar with a newly written Magnificat. Knowing how hard it is for a choir to sing that Magnificat (on the same level as the Mass in B Minor and the Motets), it is clear that Bach did not have a “break” at all, but was very busy rehearsing his choir in addition to writing all this new music.

Wieneke Gorter, December 27, 2016, Harnoncourt link updated December 26, 2019.