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Today we feature Bach’s quintessential “Lutheran” cantata, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” (Salvation has come to us, BWV 9).
The gossamer sound of the opening movement disguises the fact that this cantata is the locus classicus of Lutheran fervor in all of Bach’s work, the clearest expression in cantata form of the composer’s lifelong identification with the founder of his denomination. The ‘story’ of this cantata is Luther’s story, so familiar to Bach, a progress from utter despair to hope for salvation which forms the heart of so many cantata-dramas and must have had personal resonance for the composer.
• John Harbison
We present two wondrous pieces from this cantata today. First, the opening chorus, and second, the soprano/alto duet of which one singer of this cantata said, “At first I thought it was the most beautiful duet I’d ever sung, but the more I sing it, our parts together, it feels very important and permanent.”
These are the more “positive” movements of the cantata, reveling in having been justified by faith in Christ. The other pieces between focus on human inability to keep the Law and our need for Someone to save us.
Soli Deo Gloria!
It is our salvation come here to us,
full of grace and pure goodness.
Deeds can never help,
they cannot protect us.
Faith beholds Jesus Christ,
He has done enough for us all,
He has become the Intercessor.
Lord, you behold, instead of good works,
the heart’s strength of faith,
only faith do You receive.
Only faith justifies,
all else appears too meager
to be able to help us.
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