The Parable of the Sower by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1557. Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, USA. The seeds already sown have multiplied in the fields below the sower, to the right and in the middle distance in the painting. The thorn bushes are visible on the bottom left of the painting, uphill from the sower. Across the river, a small crowd gathers to hear Jesus preaching. Bruegel left Antwerp in 1553 to study in Italy, and on his return made drawings of the Alps, which influenced the detail and aerial perspective of the landscape in this painting. I find it also interesting to see the mix of Flemish and Italian architecture of the buildings in this painting.

I know, this picture of the Sower in an Italian landscape has nothing to do with Bach and the weather. I had already selected it for a different type of post, focusing on Cantata 181. But looking at the painting soothes me, so I decided to leave it in.

Yesterday, on Friday afternoon, February 18, 2022, when storm Eunice made landfall here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t concentrate on that post about Cantata 181 anymore. Amsterdam was hit pretty hard, mostly with extreme wind. Three people lost their lives because of fallen trees, and one of those accidents happened in our own street.

Thus, with the wind raging through my neighborhood on Friday afternoon, I thought: well, this is exactly the weekend to talk about Cantata 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (Just like rain and snow falls from heaven) again, and see how Bach illustrates the weather. Please find my post from 2020 about this cantata here.

Bach wrote two other cantatas for this Sunday.

In 1724, during his first year in Leipzig, Bach performed two cantatas during the church service: Cantata 181 Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister before the sermon, and Cantata 18 after the sermon. Find a live performance of Cantata 181 here on YouTube. The text of this cantata elaborates even more on the different kind of people discussed in the Gospel for this Sunday, the Parable of the Sower. Find that text here, and the score here.

One year later, during his cycle of chorale cantatas, Bach wrote Cantata 126 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Lord, keep us true to your word). As with most chorale cantatas, this one is much more based on the text of the chorale than on that of the Gospel reading. The wonderful thing about this cantata is that it shows Bach in St. Matthew Passion writing mode. Read it here in my post from 2018.

Wieneke Gorter, February 19, 2022.