Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– The Circumcision of Christ – New Year’s Day 1st January 2023 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 143 ,Lobe den Herrn. meine Seele’ –

Dec 31, 2022

This cantata leaves a trail of doubts in its wake, the combination, of a certain simplicity and lack of sparkle,
-missed opportunities, perhaps?,
the unique and rather unusual instrumental combination, strings + continuo with a large, robust bassoon part and 3 x horns + timps,
all, in their time and place, have cast doubts over its authenticity.


‘Praise the Lord, o my soul.’

This movement is short, leaving us wanting much more.
Nevertheless, it is splendid, the horn suspensions, leading to the arresting choral entry, with their close imitation and sustained unison, bar 11, over tightening string energy, declaimed, 17, through 22, with hemiola, bar 20 and an imitation of the opening horn parts, 22 through 27.

The horns appear in this cantata, only twice again, in movement 5, Aria, where they are similarly used and the choral elaboration, movement 7.

The bassoon part is engaging, following closely the continuo bass, but with freedoms granted!


‘Prince of peace, Lord Jesus Christ,
man and God, and a strong helper,
in need, trouble, life and death.
In your name alone, we cry to your father.’

A disappointing realisation of this chorale melody?

I disagree. The beautiful solo part stands wonderfully apart from a dancing, yet somewhat stoic and serious violin, with its upward-stabbings, carefully imitated, by an equally stoic continuo part.
Surely this is the ‘trouble-and-strife’, carefully outlined in this text, a good reason, for us to cry out to the Father?

Also, carefully consider the las two semiquavers of each violin figuration. For a lot of the time, bars 14 through 15, for instance, they dig into the same notes,
-evidence, of repeated struggle over familiar ground?


‘Happy are they, whose help is from the God of Jacob,
and whose hope is in the Lord, his God’

A very secco-ish recit. The opening happiness, seems a little understated, given the rest of this text…


‘A thousand misfortunes,
fears and terrors, tribulation, anguish and sudden death,
enemies, all over the land,
cares and still more distress.
That is what other countries experience.
We, instead, experience another year, of grace and blessing.’

A touch of the Vivaldi’s haunts this slightly shocking text and speculation has generated and deepened, as to its meaning.

The mainly triplet violin part is contrasted by the mainly duplet vocal line and little real attempt is made to colour or illustrate all these terrible circumstances.
A turn towards the major, 20, is short lived, as we all pause, twice, for (yet) another ‘Segensjahr’, ‘year-of-blessing’.

What and inconvenient convenience for us.


‘The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, Zion, eternally’

Our horns return, fanfare-like and there is, again, an extensive written-out bassoon part, that is almost totally overshadowed, in unison, by the continuo bass part, apart from 4 exposed semiquavers, bar 39.

The vocal part is pompous but challenging, in its delivery of this text of fact and praise.

6/(aria with instrumental chorale)

‘Jesus, saviour of the flock, remain as our refuge,
so that this year may be good for us.
Keep the sacrament and the word pure, until next year.’

It seems this is where the Bassoonist really earns his money, as constant imitative dialogue, between the now independent bassoon part and the continue bass, is heard throughout. Intermittently, three-part strings and the first violin specifically, intone the choral melody. The effect is magical, but, to my ear, the whole sounds low in tessitura .
One wonders if a slight rise in key, with a soprano voice, might have been a better option?

7/Coro (with chorale)

Remember, Lord, your office and ministry,
-that you are The Prince of peace,
and help us all with grace, now and forever.
Always let your divine and godly word,
resound in peace.’

A pastoral romp ,with splendid horns and Hallelujah’s, surrounding the choral melody. This, again, short movement is still effective and uplifting, with a noticeable key shift, towards the resounding divine word, 42/43 and excellent choral writing throughout and especially during bars 51, through 57.

-and somewhat stubbornly, that bassoon player still lingers, obtrusively and again, this time, with their own written-out part.

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