The Adoration of the Magi by Lorenzo Monaco, 1420–1422. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Today is the second anniversary of my Weekly Cantata blog! It all started with a broken dishwasher. Read my story on how this blog came to be here.

Bach must have been exhausted by this time in 1725, having performed six brand-new cantatas in one week, most of them twice a day, in the St. Thomas Church as well as the St. Nicholas Church. I assume he used his “time off” during Advent to work ahead to compose the cantatas, but how soon he had each of them ready and when he rehearsed them with choir and orchestra, we don’t know.

Still he stays fully committed to his (probably self-imposed) plan to write every cantata this 1724/1725 season as a chorale cantata.  For Epiphany (Three Kings Day, January 6) 1725 he composed the exquisite Cantata 123 Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen.

On New Year’s Day 1725 he didn’t refer at all to the usual theme for that day, the naming of Jesus. Thus I don’t think it is a coincidence that for today he chose a chorale that does refer to that story, it even has the name in the title: Immanuel. Having followed Bach’s chorale cantatas in the order they were created since June 18 last year, I am now extra moved by the instrumental “announcements” of the chorale melody in the opening chorus, played by the winds. The congregations in Leipzig, who knew their chorales very well, would have known what was coming by just hearing those few notes.

I already wrote about this Cantata 123 Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen in my very first post on this blog, so in the spirit of celebrating the second anniversary, I gladly refer you to that post, where you will also find updated links to recordings and texts.

Wieneke Gorter, January 2, 2017