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The Descent of the Holy Ghost by Titian, circa 1545. Altarpiece in Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.


In Bach’s time, Pentecost was a three-day-long feast, as important in the church year as Christmas and Easter. Most of the Pentecost cantatas have trumpets, timpani, and more pull-out-all-the stops instrumentation, as was appropriate for  feast days. They don’t get performed often today, because Pentecost is not such an important feast anymore, and cantatas with Baroque trumpets and timpani are expensive.

In 1725 Bach performed the following cantatas. All these three cantatas are part of the series of nine cantatas on poetry by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler Bach wrote after Easter that year. Click on the links to find recordings on YouTube.

Sunday May 20, Whit Sunday, or First Day of Pentecost: Cantata 74 Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten.

Find the text of Cantata 74 here, and the score here.

Monday May 21, Whit Monday, or Second Day of Pentecost: Cantata 68 Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, with the famous soprano aria Mein glaübiges Herze – gloriously sung by Peter Jelosits on the Harnoncourt recording.

Tuesday May 22, Whit Tuesday, or Third Day of Pentecost: Cantata 175 Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen. (complete cantata by the Bach Foundation).

Find the text of Cantata 175 here, and the score here.

Bach might have remembered from a year before that writing three cantatas in three days was going to be too much, so he reworked the opening of cantata 59 (a soprano-bass duet) from 1724 into an opening chorus for four voice parts and full orchestra in cantata 74 in 1725. He also transformed the bass-aria with violin solo from cantata 59 into a soprano aria with oboe da caccia in cantata 74.

Wieneke Gorter, May 20, 2018.