Michaelis

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Michaelmas (Feast of Saint Michael and the Archangels)

Today is Michaelis, Michaelistag in German, Michaelmas in English, also known as the holy feast of Saint Michael and the Archangels. In Bach's time this was an important holy day on the liturgical calendar, so no less than 4 cantatas on the playlist today, all from the Leipzig period. Well, not really 4 full cantatas, because Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft, BWV 50, is a choral movement of a lost cantata, probably written in 1723.

As you may notice, all cantatas written for Michaelis are pretty imposing, with large orchestral accompaniment and strong chorus parts. There are two reasons for this: first, in Bach's time Michaelistag was a holy day on a similar level as Christmas or Easter, so festive cantatas were expected. But next to that it was also the first day of the big yearly trade fair in Leipzig, the Michaelismesse. Many visitors came to Leipzig, and it was important to make a good impression.

Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, BWV 130, is part of the chorale cantata cycle, and is based on a hymn by Paul Ebers (1554).

Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19, is based on a libretto by Picander, the librettist with whom Bach would co-operate intensly in later years, like for the last cantata, Also Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg, BWV 149.

Michaelis is my name day, so I am absolutely delighted that Bach wrote such magnificent works for me to listen to today.

Cantatas

  • Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft, BWV 50
    (first performance ? 1723, Leipzig period)
  • Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, BWV 130
    (first performance 29 September 1724, Leipzig period)
  • Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19
    (first performance 29 September 1726, Leipzig period)
  • Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg, BWV 149
    (first performance ? 29 September 1728 or 1729, Leipzig period)

Extra information

The Netherlands Bach Society website (in Dutch) has more information and performances of BWV 130 and 50:
https://bachvereniging.nl/nl/bwv/bwv-130/
https://bachvereniging.nl/nl/bwv/bwv-50/

Playlist

WBCF0929-Michaelmas (Feast of Saint Michael and the Archangels)

Playlist cover on Spotify

Choose one of these streaming services to listen to this playlist:

Image of the day

Painting by Francesco di Giovanni Botticini (1446-1498) of the three archangels (from left to right Michael, Raphael, Gabriel) with young Tobias (1470 - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy).

Painting by Francesco di Giovanni Botticini (1446-1498) of the three archangels (from left to right Michael, Raphael, Gabriel) with young Tobias (1470 - Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy).