Cantata BWV 18Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt


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Complete Performance



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German TextEnglish Text


There are two extant versions of this cantata; one from the Weimar period (around 1713) and a re-instrumented version from his Leipzig days (after 1723). The Leipzig version includes parts for recorders -so the main audio samples provided above are from the Weimar version, since they lack them- and transposed the piece into a new key.

The Bass recitative is an exact quotation from Isaish 55, v. 10-11, so the translation is an exact quotation from the King James’ version of the same passage.

The opening sinfonia has a very distinctive ‘theme tune’ which comes back in one form or another, over and over again, and creeps into the second movement if you listen closely (especially at the end).

The lengthy tenor, bass and choral movement (#3) uses some less than politically-correct poetry by today’s standards in the form of a litany, or repeated plea to God to ‘hear our prayer’. The continuo part gets rather agitated and florid when the singer mentions persecution, rages and storms: a bit of picture-painting by Bach there! Violas are used to fill out the harmony (the Leipzig version discretely doubles these with recorders).

Here is a more direct comparison of the opening of the Leipzig and Weimar versions of the Litany (movement 3), where the use or absence of recorders is perhaps most evident:

It’s not a cantata to love, I think, but the sinfonia has its charms and the third movement, anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim rants aside, also is pleasant listening. Difficult to say what mood it puts you in: it’s a sturdy, upbeat piece of conventional piety that lacks any particular joy or celebratory characteristics and is similarly devoid of obvious dampeners or gloom.

Bach Translations and Notes are copyright © Howard Rogers 2020, All Rights Reserved