There are four Bach cantatas for this Sunday, the third after Epiphany. Last year I wrote about two of them: cantatas 72 and 73. You can read that post here.
This year I’d like to share a little bit about cantata 156 Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe. I did not grow up with this cantata, my mother didn’t play this one for us. Whether this was because the Harnoncourt recording of this cantata is not very satisfying, or because she liked the three other cantatas for this Sunday much better, I don’t know.
I heard cantata 156 for the first time around 2008 or so, on a recording by American Bach Soloists from 1992, and was blown away by the rich sound of the strings and by the “groove” the ensemble finds so easily (it seems) in the opening movement and in the tenor aria. I have not heard such comfort with the rhythm in any other recording of this cantata. It is also a historic recording: it is one of the few ABS cantata recordings on which director Jeffrey Thomas sings the tenor arias himself. While Thomas’ voice is perhaps not as full as Gerd Türk’s on the recording by Bach Collegium Japan, I enjoy the music-making in this movement so much that it was comfort-music for me in the weeks and months after my mother passed away in 2010, and it is still one of my favorite Bach cantata recordings.
Other soloists on this recording: oboe: John Abberger; violin: Jörg-Michael Schwarz; counter-tenor: Steven Rickards; bass: James Weaver. Choir sopranos singing in the tenor aria: Julianne Baird, Christine Earl, and Claire Kelm.
You might recognize the opening movement of this cantata as the second movement of Bach’s harpsichord concerto, BWV 1056. However, Bach based both the cantata movement and the harpsichord concerto movement on an oboe concerto from Cöthen which is now lost.
Wieneke Gorter, January 21, 2017.