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Trade Fair traffic entering Leipzig, 1820s.

If you don’t feel like reading a long blog post and just want to learn about this Sunday’s cantatas, please watch Rudolf Lutz’ wonderful lecture/improvisation from 2020 about Cantata 44 and 183 here. It is in English. Find my blog post about these same cantatas, highlighting completely different aspects of the pieces, here.

We tend to think that Christmas was the busiest time for Bach in Leipzig, writing cantatas for the three (!) Christmas Days, New Year’s Day, Epiphany, AND all the Sundays that fell in between those days. On the holidays, he would often perform the cantatas twice, once in the St. Nicholas Church, and once in the St. Thomas Church.

While working like this for two weeks in a row does sound crazy to us, we can still relate to it, because the Christmas season is often busy for most of us too.

But especially because of this wanting or needing to relate, I think we often forget that there was another period in the year for Bach in Leipzig that was equally busy: the time from Easter to Trinity. It was perhaps not as non-stop as the Christmas season, but it was much longer in time, and more laden with decision-making, so possibly more draining for the composer. We don’t know.

I would like to go back to my posts from the spring of 2018, when I was following Bach’s writing in the spring of 1725. Going forward, this year, I would like to keep following his cantata compositions from 1725. So let’s look at what this possibly exhausting period looked like for Bach in 1725. All the links in this following list refer to my own blog posts from 2018. The Easter Oratorio was rewritten from a previous work, but every single cantata Bach wrote after that was newly composed that year, 1725.

March 30, Good Friday: The second version of the St. John Passion, with a new opening chorus and several new arias.

April 1, Easter Sunday: First performance of the Easter Oratorio as well as a repeat performance of Cantata 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden (written much earlier in his career)

April 2, Easter Monday: Cantata 6 Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden

April 8, First Sunday after Easter: Cantata 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats

April 15, Second Sunday after Easter: Cantata 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt

April 22, Third Sunday after Easter: Cantata 103 Ihr werdet weinen und heulen

This Third Sunday after Easter, or “Jubilate” Sunday, was also the start of a three-week-long Trade Fair in Leipzig, lasting until Exaudi Sunday (this Sunday). Leipzig had three such events each year (the others were at Michaelmas and at New Year’s). In the 18th century Leipzig had become the centre for trade with Russia, Poland, and England. During the fairs the population of the city would grow to 30,000. Bach did business himself too during these times. He for example timed the publication of his Clavierübung to coincide with these fairs. In addition to that, I imagine that he would have had visitors in his house, and that he was making time to meet with friends and colleagues who were in town during this time.

April 29: Cantata 108 Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe

May 6: Cantata 87 Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen

May 10, Ascension Day: Cantata 128 Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein

May 13: Exaudi Sunday (this current Sunday): Cantata 183 Sie werden euch in den Bann tun

May 20, Pentecost / Whit Sunday: Cantata 74 Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten

May 21, Pentecost Monday / Whit Monday: Cantata 68 Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt

May 22, Pentecost Tuesday / Whit Tuesday: Cantata 175 Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen

May 27, Trinity Sunday: Cantata 176 Es ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding

Wieneke Gorter, May 15, 2021