Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Monday after Easter – 18th April 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 66 – ,Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen’.

Apr 15, 2022

A later, sacred reworking, of an earlier, secular serenata, -probably the congratulatory cantata, BWV 66a, this cantata, adds a lone trumpet, to its standard orchestra.


‘Hearts rejoice, sorrows begone, The Saviour lives and reigns, among you. Drive away sorrow, fear and anxious dismay, The Saviour revives His spiritual kingdom.’

A rather lively, ‘up-beat’ ritornello, -a waltz, rather than a minuet, with 2 strong, starting beats, sets-off, this opening ritornello, with music that banishes sorrows, -or agonies, downward, bar 4, in the bass line, and onwards, in, firstly violins and then winds, and encourages joys-upwards, bars 1 through 3.

Downward agonies, are out-done, by upward joys, not so much, in joyful volume or intensity, but in joyful spirit.

The slow-moving trumpet, adds as much sparkle, to those joys, as it does agonies, to the agony, that of its own and those of the music, bars 10, through 15.

Alternate alto and tenor and then alto and bass, shout out the alternate, opening commands, and the chorus compliments, with, a third.

At 37, tenor-bass, answer soprano-alto, and with more of the same.

After a long approach, towards a tempo-easing- andante, that seems much more ‘up’, than ‘down’, the text turns, 156, towards exercising the ability to drive away any persistent sorrows, fears or anxious dismays.

There appear, from the word go, considerably, seismic chromaticism’s, from separate alto and bass parts, as daring as they are disorientating, yet, as uncanny, as they are evocative, of their subjects, -perhaps even unprecedented and most certainly prophetic, and right up to 178.

-Hence, I suppose, the andante advisory, in the score, as much, for the audience, as the performers.

These develop, melissmatically, 186, becoming, after tutti interjections, 198, more and more embellished, 202, through 226, where we run on, to the da capo return.


‘The grave is broken open, our woes, ended. My mouth, will proclaim, these deeds of God: That The Saviour lives and through this example, of distress and death, all has turned out really well, for the people, of faith.’

Grave music indeed, seems to carry us forward.

The harmony refuses to budge, on a vocal implication, at ‘…distress and death…’ but at ‘the prospering’, of the people, of faith, the bass line does, at last, finally move, up, to C#, and we are all rewarded, with a slow, yet enthusiastic string-fanfare, one, for all those, who are, prosperous…and faithful.


‘Raise, to the highest, a song of thanksgiving, because of His mercy and everlasting faithfulness. Jesus appears, to us, giving peace, Jesus calls, to us, giving life and His compassion, is new, each and every day.’

This simple, but long, song of thanksgiving, has a slightly un-simple phrase structure:

4, 3, 6 and a hemiola, 2 into 1,

3, 2, 3, 6, a hemiola, 2 into 1

and finally, 2.

There is also, considerable, harmonic disturbance, 28, where a contagious viola G#, sets a trend, 28/29, to seriously try, -to no avail, to undermine, the flow, -and this returns, at 48.

All is not perhaps as it seems, and certainly not, as it sounds.

Our bass singer, chooses to dwell, upon the eternal, 41 and again, at 51.

Suddenly, and without warning or preparation. a lone oboe, frees itself, from the mesh its mate and its violin accomplice, bursting out on its lone.

Almost immediately, this old accomplice, tries to catch up and the two, joined by the one singer, enjoy 8 bars of the good ole’ days, in-fact somewhat better than those, some good but simple counterpoint, instead of unisons.

At 127, Jesus appears, -enter fanfares, 128.

At 138, we are given peace, where this is hi-lighted, -pointed’, by winds and the voice, gives a flourish, and we are given peace, -enter more fanfares.

At 158, there is more and we are given life, vocally embellished, again.

These two lines are repeated, and again winds and strings, imaginatively, ‘point’ and hi-light.

More life-affirmation, 190 through 194 and on, through some strange and colourful harmonic territory, leading to an understanding -and before a da capo return, that compassion, is renewed, every day.

And this is probably the ‘punch-line’ that Bach wants us to understand:

The puzzle of structure, in this case, is solved, by and in, daily renewal.

4/Recitativo à 2:

This beautiful recit-arioso and the aria-duet that follows are both dialogue movements, between Hope/tenor and Fear/alto,

This opening recitativo, is a triparte structure:

part-solo recit, part-arioso duet/dialogue and recit-duet.

The two protagonists, stage characters, personalities, delight in their chatter, -Hope/rejoicing in Jesus, seeking soulic joy an worrying about the problems, of what to bring, to worship, -Fear/worries of weakness, doubting and unbelief, and of course, they fret, about, each other.

In the animated middle section, arioso, they also clash, constantly, over whether The Saviour, has woken from sleep, and whether, He is still in bondage.

This is a real physical animation, as you can hear the orchestral sounds, of their scampering feet, running, in the undergrowth.

All thi,s is a return to the world of Watteau and the commedia de l’arte, where such characters enjoy, time on their hands, to frolic in paradise, with instruments, of music and pleasure, feasting on such activities.

It cries out for a staging.

But, maybe, we should just let Bach do the illustration and we the listening?


‘I feared/feared not, the darkness, of the grave, I complained/hoped, that my salvation was torn/would not be torn, from me.

The dialogue for Hope and Fear continues, in this aria-duet, with a long 12/8, -or 4-in-a-ba,r gigue.

‘Now, my heart is full of comfort and even though a foe, might show his anger, I shall be triumphant, in God.’

A sprightly fiddle sets the pace, for another piece of theatre and as usual, these two swing and swoon together, in imitative titillation, running over the grass and flying through the treetops, with not a care in any world and all, in really, a most sweet and sickly way.

The middle section brings no relief and a da capo brings us all, eventually, full circle and full stop.


‘Alleluia. For all this, we are all glad. Christ shall be our comfort. Lord have mercy.’

This chorale is far from commonplace.

Three alleluias, -the first, soprano and bass, moving in parallel thirds, leads into -the second, nicely balanced bass and alto and finally, into -the third, where a pivot, one onto f# minor, sets the pace, colour and mood, for some thoughtful, but joyful gladness, bar 5, with our ecstatic tenor outburst.

Despite this the comfort of Christ, 7, seems bold, but also, somewhat cold.

It is left to a lone Kyrie eleis, to warm up the ending, which it does, -and in a rather, B-minor-mass-ish way, with the warmth that only, an F# major, can bring.

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