Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

-Sunday 19th December 2021-4th Sunday in Advent-J.S.Bach-NO CANTATA for THIS SUNDAY-cantata for an unspecified occasion-BWV 202 ,Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten‘

Jan 10, 2022

A nine section cantata, -introductory adagio, followed by an andante, 3 arias, 3 recits and a concluding gavotte, scored for soprano only, with oboe, strings and continuo.

That the text relates winter, drawing to a close, the sun, once more, climbing in the sky and Cupid again, at work.

‘…love is better than Flora’s transitory delight’,

all of this, is surely ample evidence, that this cantata was written for the occasion of a wedding.


‘Begone, gloomy shadows. Frost and wind, go to rest. Flora’s joys will grant the heart nothing but sheer delight, for she brings forth flowers.’

In a short, but sublime, improvisatory prelude, -Handelian in feel, rising sap and a resulting diminishing and vanishing wintery-ness, is suggested, by a variety of rising string arpeggios.

A lone oboe, -albeit, to start with, in a downward, complimentary-contrary motion, joins in, soon rising, to the occasion, heralding a triumphant soprano, in banishment-mode, as she commands a barren, wintery-world, into slumber:

‘…dismal shadows, frost and wind…’

This allows Bach some daring, contrapuntal squirming with his harmony, which is almost to much to bear, -just like the frost and wind it portrays.

In the second half of 9, descending strings, announce that all is, again, well, as slumber creeps over us all.

This text is agin repeated, similar horrors being alluded to.

In both cases, -3 in fact, as the second line is repeated, finally athe soprano lingers, long, on ,Ruh’. and the oboe winds-up this section, not without a passing frosty-reference and memory.

The tempo increases to andante and with a trudging bass.

Flora, -the Roman goddess of flowers and the season of spring, we are rightly told, will bring forth flowers and in that process, she grants us hearts, of sheer delight.

There is a hint of a spring clean-up dance here, albeit a little snowed-up, under foot.

Still, she does manage some coloratura-like thought at 29, as she muses on and visualises herself, -always a good psychological pick-me-up, for those pre-delivery nerves, bringing forth the first flower deliveries, of a new and fertile year.

Perhaps he sap is beginning to rise?


‘The world is renewed, -in valleys and mountains. Everything is now growing, doubly beautiful. The day is frost free.’

If sap wasn’t rising in the andante, it certainly is in this recit.


,die Amnut’ or the grace, in the sense of charm,

she rises right up, to a reasonable ‘F’ and at 5, in a frost free world, she even allows a little foot shuffle, -probably only to warm up a little though, and in doing so, forces the recit towards a little arioso, just to help the thaw.


‘Phoebus drives his swift horses, through the new-born world. Yet…because, she begins, to please him, so much, he sees himself becoming her lover.’

Now things have really changed.

For our originally, dried-up little old Flora, the world has hotted-up’, sap has risen up to a bursting point, and the heat is on.

The sun god, no-less, Phoebus, Apollo, the bright and the pure, has agreed to scoop her up, into his chariot, for a wizz around the skies.

He is uncontrollable is his passion and fancies himself, eventually, as her lover. The sun is rising.

She seems cautious though, and Bach’s long and painstaking introduction, scampering around, as it does, shows her initial reticence to be caught, tamed or even inclined, towards the drivings of his, the sun-god’s, swiftness.

Her 12/8 dance, jaunty but laboured in its heavy and exhausting footwork, -three-shuffles to-a-beat, is counterproductive, and of course, purely narrative in its text.

Nevertheless, she does warm up to his swift horses driving and as a result, he to her.

‘Yes’ she sings, -middle section 22, and in doing so, crosses the equator of his soul, her dance, seemingly to stabilising.

Less scamper, more banter, perhaps?


‘Cupid also seeks his pleasure: when purple laughs in the meadows, when Flora shines in splendour and when, within his realm, like beautiful flowers, hearts triumph, in their ardour.’

Now, even Cupid is in on the act, -and he has every right to be.

He can see hearts in their ardour, like those beautiful flowers, within his realm.

As a result, in the final line, secco grows into arioso.


‘When springtime breezes, play and waft, through those coloured fields, Cupid is apt to creep by, in search of his jewel, which is simply this: When one heart kisses another.’

The other heart in this act, is, presumably, the hottest man around.

But, in this accompanied duet, his instrument of choice is, surprisingly, a highly strung fiddle, and on it, he plays very well, breezing and beguiling, around and about, these coloured fields, of course without uttering a word, every stroke of his bow on his string, hot with the heat of the sun.

Early on, bars 4-5, his very persistent message is crystal clear, in-fact four times over he labours it,

A easy dance lilt is set up, two steps per beat, and into this she steps, possibly all of a-quiver, but nevertheless, all singing and just about all dancing, her heart singing out the narrative.

Initially, they seem to answer each other, but as she begins to understand the implication of spring, -and with a spring in her step, they get musically together, and he can confidently, rest on his long ‘D’, his point seemingly having been received.

Counterpoint heats up and Bach begins to show us what these two can really do as these hearts begin to kiss each other, so much so, that at 36, he questions her again and this time, she gives her heart to his question -and during his performance.


‘This is good fortune: Through a supreme favour of fate, two souls attain one adornment, on which much welfare and blessing shine.’

At, ‘…adornment…’, recit is again challenged, adorned itself, in arioso, the walking bass leading into a vocal coloratura blessing.


‘To cultivate love and frolic about, this is much better than Flora’s fleering pleasure. Here, the waves gush forth and the triumphant palms, laugh and keep watch, both on lips and hearts.’

Apollo discards the fiddle in favour of the pipe and a subtle minuet, introduces our Flora, into the delicate art, of the cultivating, of the frolic.

But, at 8, still the question remains, twice asked, 9-10, and then, twice again, 11-12, and then the first question, twice again, with emphasis, and a final, long burst.

She has warmed up and at last and definitely is getting the hang of the situation, her singing taking in a character of laughing.

Her ,Scherzen’ 25, is beginning to be infectious, as we all warm up, to this new-found freedom.

At the dismissal of all those transitory delights, she puts her foot firmly down on those first beats of the bar, this circumspect minuet, is now turning into a risky waltz.

At 98, semiquavers, gush forth, in proportion to those gushing waves.

And gush they do, as she laughs her way, through-out the whole experience of those palm-trees, touching and caressing those lips and that chest.


‘Let the bond of chaste love, you betrothed pair, be free, from the inconsistency, of change. May no sudden incident, -or thunderclap, upset your amorous desires.’

All is well, until a sudden incident, impacts the normality of this recit, throwing the whole experience into an arioso of thunderclap and fear.

Hopefully, though, the bond of chaste love will win through.


‘May you both, -and in contentment, see a thousand days, of bright properity. That, in the very near future, your love may bear flowers.’

The bind of chaste love, has indeed, won through and in this suite-like, wedding gavotte, all parties, -oboe+singer+strings and continuo, at all times, put their best feet forward, together and in block harmony, at least to start with.

Notice the antiphonal oboe and strings at 16 and especially, the viola part at 22, -a rare bout of rebellious out-burst, a measure surely, of the happy, well-sprung ending to this cantata, a long, long way, from its rather frosty and fusty start.

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