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The Anticipation of Bach's Cantata 62

Lantern in window
Anne Nygard
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Lantern in window

On The Bach Hour, Masaaki Suzuki leads music of excitement and meditation for the season, and the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin performs the Orchestral Suite No. 2.

On the program:

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Martin Luther) - Julia Gooding, soprano

Chorale prelude:  Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 660, and Chorale prelude:  Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 661 - His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts, Timothy Roberts, director

Cantata:  Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 62 (translation) - Yukari Nonoshita, soprano;  Robin Blaze, alto;  Makoto Sakurada, tenor;  Peter Kooij, bass;  Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki, conductor

Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1066 - Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

Chorale prelude:  Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 599 - Peter Sykes, organ (Fisk organ at Old West Church, Boston)

Transcript:

[MUSIC]

On cold Friday nights in the wintertime, there was a particular gathering spot for the people of Leipzig in the early 1700’s. Leipzig was a center of commerce, so some of the publishers, craftsmen, and business people would head to Zimmermann’s coffee house to chat with friends and enjoy some good food. It was also a place where J.S. Bach could loosen up and relax as well, but in a creative sense. He could take a break from the regimented schedule of church services and teaching that dominated his life and put together music that was just fun to play … and hear.

These informal concerts included overtures, or what we now call orchestral suites, and you’ll hear the second of them, coming up on The Bach Hour.

Hello, I’m Brian McCreath; welcome to The Bach Hour, from 99-5 WCRB. Coming up, along with the Orchestral Suite No. 2, you’ll also hear the Cantata No. 62, the second of the two Advent cantatas written by Bach on the chorale Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, “Now Come, Savior of the heathens.” You can find a translation of the text of that piece at our web site, Classical WCRB dot org, where you can also listen to this and other programs on demand. Again, that’s at Classical WCRB dot org.

The origins of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland date back to St. Ambrose in the fourth century, and with its Advent theme of anticipation of the arrival of Jesus, it formed the basis for several pieces by Bach. Here is a performance of the tune itself with soprano Julia Gooding, followed by settings of two chorale preludes by Bach using the ancient instruments of Her Majesty’s Sackbutts and Cornetts.

[MUSIC – BWV Nun komm, BWV 661, BWV 662]

These two preludes by Bach were originally for organ, and they were performed here in a re-imagining by Her Majesty’s Sackbutts and Cornetts. Those were preceded by the basic tune on which they were based, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, sung by Julia Gooding.

The Cantata No. 62 is the second cantata Bach wrote using that same chorale. Like the Cantata No. 61 – an earlier piece of the same name, this Cantata was written for the First Sunday of Advent. So its theme is the entrance not just of Jesus, but also of the liturgical church year.

But the similarities end there. The Cantata No. 61 paints that entrance as grand and majestic, using dignified French overture style opening:

[MUSIC]

The Cantata 62, written around 10 years later, is more about pure excitement, with an energetic buzz, and an oboe duet swirling around the same chorale tune.

[MUSIC]

The tenor soloist follows that opening with an extroverted dance movement, celebrating, as the text says, “…this great mystery: the Supreme Ruler appears to the world.”

The bass soloist then takes things in a different direction in the voice of the believer, urging the divine to, quote, “Conquer” and “Be mighty for us in the flesh! “

A short moment of intimacy arrives with the soprano and alto soloists in a recitative that contrasts the encroaching darkness of late November and early December against the illumination Jesus brings to the believer’s life.

[MUSIC]

The final chorale brings back the community voice and that original chorale tune as a hymn of praise.

You can find the entire translation of this piece at our web site, Classical WCRB dot org.

Here is a performance of the Cantata No. 62, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, or “Now come, Savior of the heathens,” with soprano Yukari Nonoshita, alto Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooij. Masaaki Suzuki conducts Bach Collegium Japan, here on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC - BWV 62]

The Cantata No. 62, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, in a performance featuring soprano Yukari Nonoshita, alto Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, and bass Peter Kooij. They were joined by Bach Collegium Japan and conductor Masaaki Suzuki.

Gottfried Zimmermann was something of an entrepreneur during Bach’s time in Leipzig. He ran a coffee house in a mansion located just off the market square, and just upstairs was a hall large enough for weekly two-hour concerts for an audience of about 150 people.

Unfortunately, the mansion itself was destroyed in World War II, but in this day of international coffee franchises setting the mood with a particular blend of music, maybe we can look back to Zimmermann as a sort of coffee house prophet.

It was Bach who ran those weekly concerts for several years, programming music from several composers of the time, and drawing on the students of Leipzig University to play in the ensemble as he directed from the harpsichord. The Collegium Musicum, as it was called, gave Bach a chance to branch out from his rigorous routines of teaching and handling liturgical music at the St. Thomas School and Church.

Here is some of the music from those concerts, with the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin. This is the Orchestral Suite No. 2, featuring flutist Ernst-Burghard Hilse.

[MUSIC – BWV 1067]

Of the four Orchestral Suites by Bach that have survived the centuries, this is the most distinct, with its minor key center and focus on a single solo instrument. This performance of the Orchestral Suite No. 2 featured flutist Ernst-Burghard Hilse and the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin.

Let’s return now to another of Bach’s preludes on the Advent tune Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. Here is organist Peter Sykes, in concert at Boston’s Old West Church.

[MUSIC – BWV 599]

With one of the meditative preludes Bach wrote on the Advent tune Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, or “Now come, savior of the heathens,” that was Peter Sykes performing in concert on the C.B. Fisk organ at Old West Church in Boston.

Remember, you can hear this program and others on-demand at our web site, Classical WCRB dot org, where you’ll also find many more resources to explore and learn about Bach and his music. Again, that’s all at Classical WCRB dot org.

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 on The Bach Hour.