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Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles by Duccio di Buoninsegna, between 1308 and 1311. Tempera on wood. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy.

2020 update:  If you can afford to financially support the artists, please consider purchasing your favorite recording. Just click on the Amazon or iTunes link at the end of the paragraph that describes the recording.

In 1725, between Easter and Pentecost, Bach set nine cantatas in a row to beautiful poetry by Christiane Mariana von Ziegler: Cantatas 103, 108, 87, 128, 183, 74, 68, 175, and 176. Read more about this multi-talented female librettist, arts benefactor, and fellow Lutheran “preacher” in this post.

The first cantata in this series is Cantata 103: Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, for the third Sunday after Easter in 1725.

My favorite overall recording of this cantata is by Herreweghe, with vocal soloists Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs, and Peter Kooij, and Jan Van Hoecke on flauto piccolo. Listen to their opening chorus here on YouTube. Listen to the entire recording by Herreweghe here on Spotify. If you like this recording, please purchase it on Amazon or iTunes.

However for the best energy and intensity in the tenor aria, I prefer Mark Padmore on the Gardiner recording. Listen to their interpretation of the tenor aria here on Spotify. If you like this recording, please purchase it on Amazon or iTunes.

Robin Blaze’s singing and Dan Laurin’s playing in the alto aria on the Bach Collegium Japan recording is exceptional, and perhaps more moving than Damien Guillon’s on the Herreweghe recording. Listen to that aria here on Spotify. And it is a good problem for me, not being able to choose between countertenors 🙂 If you like this recording, please purchase it on Amazon or iTunes.

Find the texts & translations here, and the score here.

Two noteworthy things about this cantata are the dramatic change from sadness to joy, and the use of the sopranino recorder, or “flauto piccolo” in the opening chorus and the alto aria.

The sadness on this “Jubilate” Sunday is because of the Gospel story for this Sunday: Jesus announces to his disciples that he is going to leave them, and that they will go through a period of hardship during which the rest of the world will mock them. Other cantatas Bach wrote for this Sunday are Cantata 12 Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen and Cantata 146 Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal. But in the alto recitative (fourth movement), the turning point is announced: “dass meine Traurigkeit in Freude soll verkehret werden” (that my sorrow will be turned to joy). Bach makes a big deal here of illustrating the word “Freude” and then does that again, even more exuberantly in the tenor aria that follows: there the illustration of the word “Freude” is six measures and almost 100 notes long.

Since his arrival in Leipzig, Bach had used recorders in cantatas quite often see this image by Nik Tarasov, but this is only the third time he writes for sopranino recorder, or “flauto piccolo.” The first time was on October 8, 1724, in Cantata 96 Herr Christ der einige Gottessohn, and the second time on March 25, 1725, in Cantata 1 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.

In both cases, Bach used the sopranino part to illustrate the word “Morgenstern” (Morning Star) in the text, creating an extra constellation over the highest notes of the sopranos with the even higher notes of the recorder. It is not completely clear why Bach uses the sopranino this time, in Cantata 103. There are theories that the instrument is meant to illustrate the “mocking” of the outside world. But, as Bach always paints the entire story of a cantata already in the opening chorus, I think he perhaps might have used the recorder to convey the message of “there will be joy at the end” in the otherwise very sad opening chorus. But who knows, his reason for using the instrument might simply have been that the virtuoso player was in town again, since it was around the time of the big Easter Trade Fair that Bach was writing this music.

Whatever the reason, it is very likely that there was only one person in 1725 among Bach’s colleagues who could play this. When Bach performed the piece again in later years, he changed the accompanying instrument in the alto aria to violin. There are also parts for a transverse flute. Herreweghe, Koopman, and Suzuki use a sopranino recorder in the alto aria, while Gardiner uses violin, and Ponseele (on the Il Gardellino recording) uses transverse flute.

To learn more about this cantata, you can now (2020) watch the excellent introduction (“Workshop”) by Rudolf Lutz of the J.S. Bach Foundation here on YouTube. The J.S. Bach Foundation just added English subtitles this video, so it is now also accessible to those who don’t understand German.

To read more about Bach’s use of recorders, I recommend this article in two parts by Nik Tarasov: Part I, about Bach in Mühlhausen, Weimar, and Köthen, and Part II, about Bach in Leipzig.

Wieneke Gorter, April 22, 2018, updated April 27 & May 2, 2020.