INKPOT#71 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: J.S.BACH The Cantatas – An Inktroduction


The Cantatas An Inktroduction
by Chia Han-Leon

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MORE CANTATAS were composed in the first half of the 18th century than at any other time period in the history of music. It is hardly coincidental, I think, that Johann Sebastian Bach died exactly in the year 1750… .But numbers are deceptive: though Bach composed more than 300 cantatas, this number is in fact not even half as impressive as that of Telemann, Christoph Graupner or G.H. Stlzel, each of whom is credited with more than 1000 cantatas. In any case, about two-fifths of Bach’s cantatas remain lost, largely due to the division of his property after his death among his many heirs. Despite the losses, nearly 200 Bach cantatas survive today.

But of course, quality is another, more important matter. Bach’s cantatas are rightly considered as the pinnacle of the development of the cantata, which has a history of more than XXXX years. For anyone to have composed more than a few hundred cantatas, variety is surely the spice of life. For Bach, it is the great diversity of form, mood, style and creative invention which make his cantatas such a rich resource for anyone who might even just occasionally dip into them.

It is extremely difficult to conduct any kind of survey on the vast and rich legacy that Bach left behind. Whether one is simply trying to list the cantatas, verbally describe the cantatas, trace their history through a book, perform or record a “complete” cycle (prepare to witness one very very brave attempt by John Eliot Gardiner as he embarks on a perform-a-cantata-concert-every-Sunday and record each one ‘live’, in the year 2000) – or to write an introduction to them (which I have taken a year to pluck up enough courage to do). The amount of information to cover is staggering.

Although he was a famous organist in his time and after his death, his cantatas and other voal works remained largely neglected until in 1829, when Mendelssohn conducted his relevatory performance of the St Matthew Passion, no less, at a concert in Berlin.

Bach’s cantatas can be split up into [two periods, three categories]. First are the Weimar cantatas dating from the period before Bach moved to Leipzig in 1723. As Christoph Wolff carefully notes, these are not necessarily “early cantatas”, as Bach was already 38 in 1723 Bach wrote the majority of his cantatas in Leipzig, out of duty as cantor of the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church), and probably to some extent through his affinity for (and ability to) artistic creation with a broad, intellectual goal. What I am refering to is the fact that Bach

The Goldberg Variations – Selected Reviews at the Inkpot:

It took Chua Guan Ee has a close relationship with a tiny part of the BWV565 Fugue, using just two fingers.

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407: 20.2.1999 Chua Guan Ee

CANTATAS!!

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