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Craig Smith comments on todays cantata, Gott soll allein mein Herze haben (God shall have my heart, BWV 169).
After the first two cantata cycles in Leipzig, Bach became discouraged with the level of players and singers at his disposal. More and more frequently he wrote prominent parts in his cantatas for organ, knowing that his son Carl Philip Emmanuel would play them well and emphasized solo voices over the chorus. Today’s cantata is a prime example. It begins with an arrangement of the first movement of the E major harpsichord concerto transposed to D. The solo part is given to the organ and the original string orchestra is enriched by two oboes and English Horn. The sung portion of the cantata begins with an extended arioso for alto with the continuo instruments. The opening line of text “Gott soll allein” functions as a litany through out both this movement and the following delightful aria with organ obbligato. After a brief recitative the strings of the orchestra reappear in a marvelous adaptation of the second movement of the E major harpsichord concerto. Once again the organ takes the solo part with the voice part laid on top of it. What is fascinating is Bach’s enrichment of the harmony in order to color the text particularly the word “stirb”(to die). After another brief recitative the work ends with an harmonization of one of the most beautiful chorale tunes, “Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist.”
The opening Sinfonia is one of my favorite instrumental pieces by Bach, which he took from the first and second movements of the E Major Clavier Concerto BWV 1053.
Enjoy this beautiful music, and may it lift your heart to a place of beauty and grace this Lord’s Day.
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