Boys of the St. Thomas school on their way to St. Thomas church, 1723.

In last week’s post, I pointed out that Bach might have lost his soprano soloist this spring of 1724. There might not have been a boy in his choir good enough to sing complicated solo arias. Or perhaps there was a boy who had a good voice, but who needed several weeks of coaching by the maestro before he was ready to sing an aria. Because during this spring semester of 1724 in Leipzig, Bach’s cantatas featured a soprano aria (not counting solos consisting of only a chorale tune) only every 3-4 weeks.

Some writers suggest Bach might have been training a new soprano in the weeks between Easter and Pentecost of 1724, so this boy would be able to sing the aria for this Sunday (Exaudi, or the Sunday after Ascension) and the arias in the upcoming Pentecost cantatas. I myself think that Bach’s problems with the boys of the school might have persisted for the long-term, but that he had a temporary solution for these few weeks. What if  one of the boys who had moved away earlier in the year would be back temporarily, visiting Leipzig with his family for the Pentecost holiday –a three-day holiday in Leipzig, as important for the church as Easter and Christmas? Or perhaps Bach knew that one of the extra oboists or trumpet players would be bringing his talented son with him? After all, as I’ve come to believe over the course of doing research for this blog, it is likely that musician friends and musician relatives visited Leipzig for two weeks or longer around the time of major holidays.

Whatever the background story, on this Sunday in 1724 there was finally a glorious soprano aria in the churches again, a favorite from my childhood. I wrote about it last year in this post.

Wieneke Gorter, May 27, 2017