Each separate cantata uses different performing groups, emphasizing the idea that this is not one large work. Although parts of the libretto are poetic, much of it is taken from the German translation of the Bible. Bach used portions of the Nativity story from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in retelling the story. This is the only cantata among the six that starts with a piece for orchestra alone. At this time, Bach was in Leipzig.
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Each separate cantata uses different performing groups, emphasizing the idea that this is not one large work. Although parts of the libretto are poetic, much of it is taken from the German translation of the Bible. Bach used portions of the Nativity story from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in retelling the story. This is the only cantata among the six that starts with a piece for orchestra alone. At this time, Bach was in Leipzig. In fact, of the 64 movements across the six cantatas, 14 are chorales.
The chorale was an invention of Martin Luther, who wanted to create a type of church music in which the congregation could participate. The members of the congregation in the Roman Catholic Church at that time c. A chorale is a hymn-like melody sung in German, the language Luther spoke. In its traditional usage, a chorale would have a simple, obvious melodic line sung by the sopranos in a choir or by the congregation in church with a basic chordal accompaniment sung by the altos, tenors, and basses in a choir, or played on the organ.
We will look at the chorales in groups, based on similarities in the way Bach composed or harmonized them. Traditional Settings The first group which is also the largest are the traditional, four-part settings. In these settings, the sopranos in the choir and the soprano instruments of the orchestra: flutes, oboes, first violins have the chorale melody.
Bach rarely wrote the melodies to these chorales; most were written by earlier composers, including Martin Luther himself. The altos, tenors, basses of the choir and instruments playing in those registers in the orchestra would play the harmonization. Many times, they would perform the same or virtually the same rhythm as the sopranos. These traditional settings sound very much like the hymns we use today in Christian churches.
Matthew Passion. See what this traditional type of setting looks like: The end of each phrase is marked by the use of a fermata. This chorale is mostly in the minor mode, meaning that it uses pitches from a scale in which the third note is lowered. Sometimes the sixth and seventh notes are lowered as well, though they are often not. Pieces written in minor are often more somber or sad in mood. This chorale is not so much sad as it is penitent, hopeful, and longing.
This makes the setting a little more colorful and unexpected in a surprising twist, and reinforcing a feeling of hope, this chorale ends on a major triad. The same chorale melody is used in a different way in another piece in the sixth cantata. In addition, the first two phrases repeat, though using different words.
Like the previous chorale, this one, too, uses fermatas to mark the ends of phrases and places to breathe. Although Bach makes the lower parts more interesting by giving them a lot of extra notes to sing, there is never a doubt that the sopranos have the melody.
One other chorale using a traditional, four-part setting needs to be discussed here. This one is not all that different from the previous two we discussed. This is why these are usually sung at a slow tempo to make it easier for the congregation to join in the singing.
However, rather than the orchestra doubling the choral parts, the orchestra plays a more active, independent accompaniment. Compare this, now, to the latter version. As they sing, the orchestra, which includes trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings, and continuo, plays very active, busy, and independent material.
Whereas in the earlier version the choir sang continuously, taking only a breath between phrases, here the orchestra plays in between chorale phrases. The texture is continuous because the orchestra especially the violins never stops, even though the choir is silent for a period.
The combination of the choral parts and independent orchestral music creates a polyphonic texture, where multiple, independent parts are heard simultaneously.
The liveliness of the orchestra and the quicker tempo overall make this version much brighter, hopeful, and joyful than the first time we heard the chorale in Group A. Bach uses this same technique a traditional, four-part harmonization in the choir against an active, independent orchestra in movements 9 and Although these two movements use the same melody and texture, and similar harmonies, they still sound very different.
In addition, the continuo part becomes much more active. The latter version 23 is very different. Bach uses a different key, which allows the melody and all the other parts as well to be set a fourth higher. This gives the piece more of a lilting feeling. Bach very likely did this intentionally, since this chorale is the last in the two cantatas which focus on the shepherds in the Christmas story. Chorale-fantasias Can one chorale constitute a group?
In this case, yes. In the broadest sense, a chorale fantasia is a piece which uses a chorale melody somewhere. Usually the chorale melody is presented in long notes, so that it is recognizable. Basically, the parts not containing the chorale melody were very free — the composer could do whatever her or she wished.
Bach wrote many chorale fantasias for organ, where the chorale melody is stated clearly in a high register. But he also wrote in this style for voices, where the sopranos state the melody. In this case, it is obvious which sections are lyrical and which are speech-like, because Bach only uses the chorale melody in the lyrical sections. A solo soprano sings this melody, which a solo bass takes the recitatives, or speech-like sections.
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Weihnachtsoratorium, BWV 248 (Bach, Johann Sebastian)
It may have even been the case that the Christmas Oratorio was already planned when Bach wrote the secular cantatas BWV , and , given that the original works were written fairly close to the oratorio and the seamless way with which the new words fit the existing music. On this occasion, however, the parody technique proved to be unsuccessful and Bach composed the aria afresh. Similarly, the opening chorus to Part V, "Ehre sei dir Gott! The third major new piece of writing with the notable exception of the recitatives , the sublime pastoral Sinfonia which opens Part II, was composed from scratch for the new work.