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Dürer Jesus among the Doctors
Christ among the Doctors by Dürer, 1506. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

It seems I have discovered something this week.

As far as I can tell, no other Bach scholar has ever pointed out that Bach recycled the 10-minute long, slow but impressive aria for tenor and flute from Cantata 114 (October 1, 1724), into a much faster paced, condensed piece of drama for tenor and oboe d’amore in Cantata 124 Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht for January 7, 1725.

This past October, I dedicated almost an entire post to that 10-minute long aria for tenor and flute. Listen to the aria here and read the post from October 7 here. The aria lived in my head for a long time after I wrote that post. I think it probably lived in Bach’s head longer: for the entire fall of 1724 and even into the Christmas season. Not even the timpani and trumpets of the New Year’s cantata would make it go way. He had to use it again, it was too beautiful for it to be only used once a year.

We don’t know. Perhaps Bach was simply a bit tired from all the composing, rehearsing, and performing of six cantatas in two weeks, and went looking for inspiration in his stack of previously composed cantatas.

There is a great live performance of Cantata 124 Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht by Solistenensemble Stimmkunst / Stiftsbarock Stuttgart under the direction of Kay Johannsen on YouTube. Watch it/listen to it here. Soloists are, in order of appearance: Thomas Meraner, oboe; Daniel Schreiber, tenor (movement 2); Andreas Weller, tenor (3); Matthias Horn, bass (4); Fanie Antonelou, soprano and Lena Sutor-Wernich, alto (5).

Find the German texts with English translations here, and the score here.

As I was listening to the tenor aria, I didn’t immediately realize it was based on the flute aria from Cantata 114. I just knew I had heard this music before, and I also was 100% certain the first line of text of the original had the word Jammertal in it*. I went searching for it online, but could not find it. So I decided to ask Eduard van Hengel. He emailed me back within a day, saying: “yes! BWV 114/2.” He has all Bach’s cantata librettos on his computer, so he could do a simple word search. Another result of Eduard’s word search: Jammertal shows up five times in Bach’s entire cantata oeuvre.

It is not so strange that Bach wanted to create a very dramatic tenor aria. He did the same on this Sunday one year earlier, in 1724, in Cantata 154. Learn more about that in my blog post from two years ago. It was all to illustrate the agony of Jesus’ parents when their teenage son didn’t think to tell them that he was going to stay behind in the Temple during their visit to Jerusalem.

Wieneke Gorter, January 6, 2018, YouTube link for the Johannsen recording updated January 11, 2020.

*This is usually how I find out about Bach’s recycling tricks, because I remember a word or two from the original text when I hear the recycled music. That is also how I realized that Bach might have been inspired by Telemann when writing Cantata 8.