Bach’s ambition to compose a body of ‘well-regulated church music’ – liturgical music for the entire church calendar – produced a wealth of sacred cantatas. Around two hundred have survived, and are an eloquent expression of his opinion that ‘true music should be for the honour of God and the recreation of the soul’. That comment – made with respect to the art of realising a figured-bass (where harmony is indicated by numbers) – seems appropriate to this collection, since the choice of these glorious works was influenced by a consideration of number symbolism and other extra-musical devices. That this most cerebral music touches the emotions so keenly might seem a paradox, but as a performer, analysing the possible thinking behind Bach’s musical decisions brings the composer closer.
Behind the unmatched contrapuntal intricacy of Bach’s music lie yet further layers of complexity, his compositional choices being prompted by the demands of symbolism of various kinds, rhetorical and numerological. Since ancient times, simple proportions had been understood to lie at the heart of musical sound. Mediaeval musicians, finding perfection in the Trinity, developed systems of notation accordingly, with the outcome that triple time was considered tempus perfectum; duple time imperfectum. Given that metre is such an evident characteristic of any music, and since triple time is something that – for us bipeds – will always be a dance, this central tenet of Christian doctrine had considerable (and possibly unintended) consequences for the character of sacred music. Bach, in addition to references to the Trinity (3 and its powers 9 and 27) and Christ’s age (33), also gave significance to numbers derived from his own name (BACH=14, 41=JSBACH, where A=1, B=2 etc.). Since composition apparently cost him comparatively little effort, ‘recreation’ for Bach’s soul seems to have lain in a delight in such convolutions; but whether as compositional spur, marks of devotion or for his private satisfaction, we can only speculate.
Total time: 00:58:23
|Original Recording Format|
van der Hul
Bruel & Kjaer, Schoeps
B&W 803 diamond
Heinis custom made
Crystal Palace London
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||August 8, 2014|
(…) Das Magdalena Consort balanciert gekonnt auf dem schmalen Grat von polyphoner, instrumental inspirierter Vokalvirtuosität, bei der Instrumente zu Stimmen werden und umgekehrt, und auf der anderen Seite von rhetorischer Ausdruckskunst, als gelte es, die barocke Figurenlehre vom Grund auf neu aufzurollen. Diese Zweiheit macht die besondere Qualität dieser Aufnahme aus.
Music-Web – John Quinn
(…) these are stylish and thoughtful performances given by musicians who are thoroughly versed in Bach performances. I enjoyed these cantata performances very much indeed. My enjoyment was enhanced by the excellence of the recorded sound and the excellent quality of the documentation.
I look forward to further recordings from this fine ensemble.
(…) the Magdalena Consort produces intimate performances (…) The gentle, transparent, nonchurchy sound is the perfect complement to these beautiful works.
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