In my effort to follow Bach’s compositions in the order in which he wrote them in 1724, I sometimes get a bit confused, because in 2017 the Sundays of the church year are exactly one week later than in 1724. Where it gets tricky is around the Feast days of St. John and the Visitation of Mary, which are always on the same date: June 24 and July 2 respectively.
See how the dates of 1724 compare to the dates of 2017 in this table here below, and you’ll understand my dilemma for today: in Bach’s time, if the feast of the Visitation fell on a Sunday, it would cancel out the theme and thus the cantata for that Sunday. That is why there is no cantata for Trinity 4 from 1724, and why Weekly Cantata will be on break next week.
|Trinity 1||June 11||June 18||20: O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort|
|Trinity 2||June 18||June 25||2: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein|
|St. John (Johannis)||June 24||June 24||7: Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam|
|Trinity 3||June 25||(July 2)||135: Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder|
|Visitation (Mariä Heimsuchung)||July 2||July 2||10: Meine Seele erhebt den Herren|
|Trinity 4||July 2||July 9||(no cantata from 1724 because same day as Visitation)|
|Trinity 5||July 9||July 16||93: Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten|
|Trinity 6||July 16||July 23||(no cantata from 1724 because of Bach’s visit to Köthen)|
|Trinity 7||July 23||July 30||107: Was willst du dich betrüben|
|Trinity 8||July 30||Aug 6||178 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält|
So officially, I should present you only with the cantata for the feast of the Visitation today, but since we are listening in order of 1724, I give you some highlights of cantata 135 Ach Herr mich armen Sünder first. An update from 2021: Since I first wrote this post, a beautiful live video recording of this cantata has been released on YouTube by the J.S. Bach Foundation. Find it here.
The cantata is the last of the set of four I described in this post, and thus has the cantus firmus in the bass in the opening chorus. This is nicely done on the J.S. Bach Foundation recording, with a trombone doubling the choral bass part. But the best choral basses are still on the recording by Bach Collegium Japan. Listen to that recording on Spotify.
While the boy sopranos have a bit more work in the opening chorus (as was the case the last two weeks), there is again no soprano aria in this cantata. The Leipzig congregations haven’s heard a soprano solo since Trinity Sunday.
But then, on July 2, 1724, they get to hear the cantata for the feast of the Visitation: cantata 10 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren. With a soprano aria directly after the opening chorus, and a virtuoso one too. It might be that a talented new student had enrolled in the school, or Bach was finally ready training one, or there is a talented boy visiting for the holiday.* There is a very nice live video of Ton Koopman performing this in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig during the Bach Festival there in 2003, with Deborah York singing the soprano aria.
Wieneke Gorter, July 1, 2017. Updated March 26, 2020, and June 19, 2021.