The Marriage at Cana by Jacopo Tintoretto, 1561. Oil on canvas. Sacristy of the Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

For this Sunday, the second Sunday after Epiphany, Bach wrote three heart-wrenchingly beautiful cantatas, all more or less focused on the Gospel story of the day: the Marriage at Cana. But none of these cantatas are festive.

In Cantata 155 Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange from 1715 (and performed again during Bach’s first year in Leipzig, 1724), Bach illustrates the hand-wringing and desperation expressed by Jesus’ mother Mary in several different ways, including a Monteverdi-like “lamento bass.” Read it in my blog post from 2017, titled Mary’s Lament.

Cantata 3 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, from 1725, takes up a special place within Bach’s 1724/1725 chorale cantata cycle, because the chorale melody appears in the bass part of the opening chorus. It gets doubled by a trombone, and this makes it “good kind of stomachache” music for me. There are not many things better than a Bach opening chorus with trombones. But much more is happening in this cantata. Read it all in my blog post from 2016, titled Hidden messages.

I wrote about Cantata 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen only last year, and found out that Bach must have been inspired by Cantata 155 when writing this one. Read it here.

If you have been following this blog for a while, and have thus already read all these posts, I have two interesting news items for you:

Two young Early Music musicians, Anne Charrier and Ben Kazez, came up with a useful project to pass the months and months of performance-free life. They hand-catalogued 1,699 movements from J. S. Bach cantatas, put the entire database on a website, and gave it a nifty search feature so you can find for example all arias for soprano and oboe, that one tenor aria that was about “Jammertale” (if you are as nerdy as me), or … all opening choruses with trombone :-). Find it here.

David Chin of Bachfest Malaysia compiled his part documentary, part travel show Encountering Bach series and some extra video material into one longer movie. I highly recommend this! The story is now in chronological order, which is helpful I think. It’s a wonderful way to virtually travel to all the Bach towns in Germany with some excellent guides! The movie takes you through Bach’s life and his works from his birth in Eisenach through the last 27 years of his life in Leipzig. Find it here on YouTube.

Wieneke Gorter, January 16, 2021.