Of this cantata 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele most people only know the soprano-alto duet Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten. The best rendition of this I have ever heard in my life is by Julianne Baird and Allan Fast on the Rifkin recording from 1988. Listen to it here. (This picture shows Fast and Baird in a crop from a photo of the Waverly Consort from 1982. Fast passed away in 1995 at age 41.)
Bach wrote this cantata for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, September 10, 1724. It was not the first time he wrote a “cute” duet — there are gorgeous examples in sacred and secular cantatas from his Weimar and Köthen years. However, at the start of his second Leipzig cycle, for the Trinity season of 1724, there are more and more duets in his cantatas. Alto-tenor duets appear in cantatas 20 and 10, spaced three weeks apart. A series of soprano-alto duets follows on July 9 in cantata 93, a month later in cantata 101, and the next week in cantata 113. Then there’s the terrific tenor-bass duet in cantata 33 on September 3, and this duet on September 10.
This is why I like it so much to listen to Bach’s cantatas in the order he wrote and performed them. I would never have noticed connections such as these otherwise.
But, enough about the duet! The rest of the cantata is wonderful too, especially the opening chorus, which is among the most complex Bach ever wrote. For those who read Dutch, I encourage you to read Eduard van Hengel’s splendid article about this cantata here.
For the entire cantata I prefer Herreweghe’s recording, also from 1988. Soprano: Ingrid Schmithüsen; Alto: Charles Brett; Tenor: Howard Crook; Bass: Peter Kooy. Find the recording here on YouTube. Find the German text and English translations of the cantata here, and the score here.
More listening for this Sunday: cantata 25 from 1723. It has a much bigger orchestra, including many brass players. Find my explanation for that here.
Wieneke Gorter, September 17, 2017