In German-speaking countries, people wish each other either a “schönen” (beautiful, pleasant), “lieblichen” (lovely, love-filled), or a “besinnlichen” (thoughtful, contemplative) Advent. I wish you all of that: beauty, love, and contemplation for the next four weeks.
On this first Sunday of Advent, I present to you again the J.S. Bach Foundation (J.S. Bachstiftung) with soprano Núria Rial, this time in Cantata 36 Schwingt freudig euch empor. In 1731, Bach transformed a secular birthday cantata from 1725 into this work for Advent. Enjoy watching these two videos by the J.S. Bach Foundation to get better acquainted with this composition:
If you would like to read, listen, or watch more, here’s a little overview of my previous posts for the first Sunday of Advent:
In Weimar, in 1714, Bach wrote Cantata 61 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. This one I remember the best from my childhood, because my mother loved Seppi Kronwitter’s singing of the soprano aria on the Harnoncourt recording. Read about it here. More about Bach’s prolific Advent cantata writing in Weimar next week.
In Leipzig, in 1724, Bach wrote Cantata 62 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. My most recent writing about this cantata is from 2020, not for this blog, but for that of California Bach Society. Find it here. My post from 2017 about this cantata is here.
Read my post about Cantata 36 Schwingt freudig euch emporhere.
Wieneke Gorter, November 28, 2021.
By the way: the video of the J.S. Bach Foundation’s 15th Anniversary concert with Núria Rial is still available here on YouTube. It is a registration of the performance in Trogen, held one day after the one I attended in Basel.
The church in Trogen, Switzerland, where the 15th anniversary concert of the J.S. Bach Foundation was recorded on Wednesday. Find it here on YouTube, only available until Friday November 19, 2021, at 2:59 pm PST / 5:59 pm EST / 11:59 pm CET.
This week, the J.S. Bach Foundation celebrated 15 years of recording Bach cantatas with a special anniversary program in three cities in Switzerland: Basel, Trogen, and Zürich. I am still pinching myself that I got to attend the concert in Basel on Tuesday November 16, sitting only 6 feet (2 meters) from the amazing soprano Nuria Rial, who sang Cantata 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut and Cantata 202 Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten.
Her performance was everything I had been hoping for and more. Her voice pulls you in from the start, and the energy and joy she exudes are just extraordinary. And then there’s her playfulness. I will never forget how special it was to experience that from up-close. I also realized what a true ensemble member she is, always in contact with the instrumentalists.
And those instrumentalists really need to be mentioned! Oboist Amy Power’s playing was lyrical throughout, with beautiful ornamentations in the “da capo” parts of the arias. I especially enjoyed the call-and response between her and Nuria Rial in the first movement of Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten. Her accomplishments were even more impressive knowing that she had been summoned from Graz less than 8 days before the concert, when the J.S. Bach Foundation heard that oboist Andreas Helm had to isolate at home because of contracting Covid-19.
First violinist Eva Borhi’s sensitive playing was especially gorgeous in the “Tief gebückt” aria from Canatata 199 and “Schlummert ein” aria from Cantata 82 with Manuel Walser. But my favorite was her interaction with Nuria Rial in the “Wenn die Frühlingslufte streichen” aria from Cantata 202.
Violist Sonoko Asabuki had an exquisite solo in the Chorale “Ich, dein betrübtes Kind” from Cantata 199, and cellist Daniel Rosin did a great illustration of Phoebus’ speeding horses in the third movement of Cantata 202, which earned a “Bravo” cheer from the audience, as if we were at the opera. (Always better than the audience member who fell asleep during “Schlummert ein,” snoring and all, a few rows behind me).
Last but not least, Rudolf Lutz, who directed the others from the harpsichord, improvised tasteful and effective mini-preludes leading up to the recitatives in Cantata 199, and very sensitively employed the lute register in the da capo of “Schlummert ein,” which formed a beautiful accompaniment to the pianissimo playing strings. He was also his usual witty self, making audience and performers laugh with his short speeches. My sister mentioned that even though we were here together at the concert because of our mother, she was actually strongly reminded of our grandfather. Also a man who always appeared very proper and Calvinist, but would then surprise you with his terrific sense of humor.
There’s a few hours left to watch the video recording that was made at the concert in Trogen, until Friday November 19 at 2:59 pm PST / 5:59 pm EST / 11:59 pm CET. Find it here on YouTube.
Today is an exciting day for me, because I get to see and hear Nuria Rial sing live for the first time in my life, performing a piece I have very fond childhood memories of. I also get to hug my sister for the first time in more than two years, and I get to explore the gorgeous city of Basel. It is a special week for my sister and me, since this coming Friday is the 11th anniversary of our mother’s death.
To remember our late mother and her love of music, every year my sister and I have tried to go to a concert together. Because I used to live in California and my sister lives in France, and we both have kids, it would not work out every year, but we’ve had some memorable experiences. In March 2013 we attended Bach’s St. Matthew Passion by Herreweghe in Cuenca, Spain, during Holy Week, which in Spain comes with processions in the streets. In November 2015 we went to Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers by Savall in the then brand-new Philharmonie de Paris, only a few days after the terrorist attacks. The last time we went to a concert together was in January 2018.
When the J.S. Bach Foundation announced their 15th anniversary concerts with Nuria Rial in Cantata 202, my choice for this year was made. I’m so grateful this is all working out and I am so excited I already woke up at 5 am this morning, as if I’m an elementary school kid, going on a field trip.
About that elementary school kid. One of my strongest childhood memories is of the time my sister and I accompanied my mother when she had to go sing at a wedding. It must have been late 1970s/early 1980s. The couple were both elementary school teachers, so they got married on a Wednesday afternoon, to make it possible for their students to attend their wedding as well. I remember absolutely nothing about all the other kids that must have been there that day. I only remember waiting for the bus, sitting on the floor of the organ loft, and hearing the music. Read more in this in this post, where you can also hear an example of the piece my mother sang that afternoon: the “Gavotte” from Cantata 202.
I have always wanted to visit Basel. It’s the place of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where so many of the Baroque musicians I admire received their training. But I also heard many stories about all the great art museums, the historic city, and how beautifully it is situated on the Rhine. When we returned from our trip to Italy in 2018, we had a wonderful stop-over with a dear friend near Basel, but all we got to see of the city were the two railway stations.
I first heard Nuria Rial sing on the German radio station WDR3, exactly one month after my mother passed away in 2010. I was staying at my parents’ house in the Netherlands with my kids. My mother had always preferred the German classical music station over the Dutch one, especially for their Early music programming, so WDR3 was pre-programmed into my parents’ fancy equipment. I heard Nuria Rial sing and she literally took my breath away. After it was over I went on Facebook and told all my singer friends (that’s why I still know what day it was). To get an idea, watch her live recording of the soprano aria from Cantata 36 with the J.S. Bach Foundation. I know I already said it, but tonight is the first time I’m going to hear and see her live.
It will also be the first time I’m going to see the J.S. Bach Foundation (Bachstiftung) perform live, after having been a fan of theirs for several years now, and having shared many of their videos on my blog. Read my last post about them (and another favorite soprano) here. I feel honored I get to celebrate their 15th Anniversary with them tonight.
There really is nothing like a live performance. But if you can’t make it to Switzerland this week, you can still watch this same concert 🙂 Tomorrow, Wednesday November 17, this same program will be live-streamed from Trogen, Switzerland, at 7 pm Central European Time, which is 10 am Pacific Time, 1 pm Eastern Time, or 6 pm in the UK. For more information on the live-stream, and to download the program booklet, click here. Direct links to the live stream are here, or on the YouTube channel of the J.S. Bach Foundation.