Cantata BWV 140Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

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Translation

German TextEnglish Text
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Notes on Translation

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Long Notes

Analysis

This is one of Bach’s later cantatas, since it was written for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which only happens in the calendar if Easter Sunday falls before March 27th, which is about as early as Easter can get… and accordingly doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it only happened twice in Bach’s professional career: 1731 and 1742. We can therefore be pretty sure that this cantata was written in 1731 and first performed on November 25th that year.

It is an absolute blinder of a cantata, quite possibly one of the best he ever wrote -and one of my personal favourites. The above video of the performance done by the Netherlands Bach Society is majestically done, too: it’s one of my favourite performances of the work.

For the chorale tune, Bach turned to the 1599 hymn by Philipp Nicolai -though as it consisted of only three verses, the format of this ‘chorale cantata’ is not quite as it would be for any of the earlier 1724/25 chorale cantatas. For his inner movements, Bach had to turn to a newly-written libretto by an anonymous author. The hymn text forms movements 1, 4 and 7 without alteration; movements 2, 3 and 5, 6 are then inserted using newly-written text and taking, in each case, an aria-followed-by-duet form.

 


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