The Three Kings before Herod. From an unknown location in France, early 15th century. Stained glass. Musée du Moyen Age / Hôtel de Cluny, Paris.

Exactly 23 years ago today, on January 15, 1999, my husband and I moved from the Netherlands to California. Friends and family thought we would stay there forever, but this past summer we moved back.

We see it as a new adventure and it is for all good reasons. I am thrilled to be in Europe, and feel blessed that we had the opportunity to make this change. Since we moved, I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with relatives and old friends, attending live concerts, walking and cycling through Amsterdam, and having super fresh flowers in my house every week. I also love the fact that I can hop on a train to another country, the way I did for my trip to Switzerland in November.

At the same time, moving house is stressful for any family, and being an expat in one’s own country can be quite unsettling at times. So it has been hard to focus my energy on this blog. But the New Year brings me new inspiration and new ideas, so I fully intend to post here more often and further explore some plans for other ways to share my love for Bach cantatas. Thanks for bearing with me as I figure it all out!

“New Year, New Energy” spirit at my local flower stand this week.

Now for some music: the Bach cantata I enjoyed most of everything I listened to over the holiday season was Part V of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, performed by the J.S. Bach Foundation. The excellent soloists are Marie Luise Werneburg, soprano; Margot Oitzinger, alto; Daniel Johannsen, tenor; and Matthias Helm, bass. Bach extended the story of The Three Kings over two parts of his Christmas Oratorio: this one, written for the Sunday after New Year (January 2 in 1735), and Part VI for Epiphany.

Of course by this weekend we are already two weeks past Epiphany. Here’s an overview of my posts for this particular Sunday:

In Cantata 155 Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange from Weimar, 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, now with a link to a subtitled lecture by Rudolf Lutz of the J.S. Bach Foundation in which he explains this extremely well.

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 gives me the good kind of stomachache. But much more is happening in this cantata. Read it all in my blog post from 2016, titled Hidden messages.

When writing about Cantata 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen in 2020, I realized that Bach must have been inspired by Cantata 155 when writing this one. Read it here.

Wieneke Gorter, January 15, 2022.