Helmuth Rilling brings the wisdom of decades to the Cantata No. 84 and the Mass in B minor - and their seemingly limitless ways to express happiness - on The Bach Hour.
On the program:
Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat, BWV 998 (trans. D major) - Jason Vieaux, guitar
Cantata BWV 84 Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (translation) - Arleen Auger, soprano; Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Württenberg Chamber Orchestra, Helmuth Rilling, conductor
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: 4. Gloria in excelsis Deo, 5. Et in terra pax, 6. Laudamus te, 7. Gratias agimus tibi - Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Helmuth Rilling, conductor
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G, BWV 1048 (arr. Crespo and Höfs) - German Brass
You’ve probably heard about how the Inuit language in Alaska has dozens of words for snow. In music the equivalent might be the seemingly limitless range of ways J.S. Bach expresses happiness, from subtle, intimate moments like this one in the Cantata 84 ...
… to the overwhelming surge of emotion in the B minor Mass …
… to the buzzy fizz of joy in the Third Brandenburg Concerto.
Each of those expressive worlds of happiness - and much more - is coming up on The Bach Hour.
Hello, I’m Brian McCreath; welcome to The Bach Hour from WCRB, Classical Radio Boston. Every artistic creation, whether it’s a painting or a novel, a choreographed work of dance or a design for a new building, finds its resonance within each of us by balancing what we expect from that form against the artist’s unexpected manipulations of it. For Bach, setting musical expectations against his own manipulations was the work of roughly five decades. And through it all, he found endless ways to express the deepest aspects of humanity. The pieces of music on this program bring you just a fraction of those possibilities, but their variety and craft are stunning.
Among them is Bach’s Cantata No. 84 Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, or, “I am content with my good fortune.” And if you’d like to see a translation of the text for that piece from Boston’s Emmanuel Music, just visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org.
First, though, is a piece originally written for the lute, and performed here on the guitar. This is the Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro, with guitarist Jason Vieux.
[MUSIC – BWV 1016]
Written at some point in the last years of Bach’s life, that was the composer’s Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro, originally for lute and performed here by guitarist Jason Vieaux.
Roughly two decades before composing that work for lute, Bach wrote his Cantata No. 84, which is based in Bible passages that advocate for being satisfied with what one has in life and not asking for more. It’s a perspective that probably wouldn’t sit well with a lot of people these days. In fact, as Craig Smith and Ryan Turner’s notes for the piece from Emmanuel Music put it, “If ever there were passages that make Christianity the ‘opiate of the people’ it is these words that support being happy with your place in life. Bach’s text here certainly toes the party line and yet in tone is more complex, even loveable.”
Other than the final chorale of the cantata, it’s written for a single soprano soloist, who’s joined by an oboe soloist to sing the words, “I am content with the fortune God bestows on me.”
It’s a wistful, not entirely settled sound, maybe even a bit sad, or at least resigned, as though that contentedness doesn’t come easily. And in the recitative that follows, there’s something like the inner debates we all go through from time to time, thinking through what true happiness really means. For Bach, the resolution of that debate comes through in the words of the next aria: “I eat my little bit of bread with joy, and heartily leave to my neighbor his own.”
Remember, you can find Pamela Dellal’s translation for this piece for Boston’s Emmanuel Music when you start at our web site, Classical WCRB dot org.
Here is the Cantata No. 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, or, “I am content with my good fortune,” featuring soprano soloist Arleen Auger. Helmut Rilling leads the Gächingen Chorale and Bach Collegium Stuttgart, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 14]
Bach’s Cantata No. 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, or, “I am content with my good fortune,” in a performance featuring soprano soloist Arleen Auger, the Gächingen Chorale and Bach Collegium Stuttgart, all led by Helmut Rilling.
Coming up, it’s a riveting part of one of Bach’s most monumental works, featuring the same choir, ensemble, and conductor you just heard. You’re listening to The Bach Hour from WCRB, online at Classical WCRB dot org.
Welcome back to The Bach Hour from WCRB, Classical Radio Boston; I’m Brian McCreath.
The cantata you just heard is part of the first complete recorded set of Bach cantatas by one conductor, Helmuth Rilling. Born in 1933, he founded the Gächingen Chorale in 1954 and, over the years, recorded not just all of Bach’s cantatas, but works by many, many composers as well. Rilling also founded the Oregon Bach Festival in 1970, staying on as its Music Director until 2013.
And here is another part of his recorded legacy, from a 2006 release, these are the opening movements of the Gloria from the Mass in B minor. Helmut Rilling leads the Gächingen Chorale and Bach Collegium Stuttgart, with mezzo-soprano soloist Stella Doufexis, here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 232]
Featuring the last mezzo-soprano Stella Doufexis in the Laudamus te, those were the first movements of the Gloria from Bach’s Mass in B minor. Helmut Rilling led the Gächingen Chorale and Bach Collegium Stuttgart.
If the joy expressed in the B minor Mass is of the transcendent, cosmic type, here is a piece that expresses a more electric, rhythmic kind of joy. This is the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, performed by German Brass here on The Bach Hour.
[MUSIC – BWV 1048]
That’s German Brass, raiding the catalog of the string section for that arrangement and performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.
Thank you for joining me today, and thanks also to audio engineer Antonio Oliart Ros. I’m Brian McCreath, and I’ll hope to have your company again next week here on The Bach Hour.