Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Today, June 24th, is the feast of the nativity of Saint John the Baptist. This liturgical feast, 6 months before Christmas, was special because it was considered a preparation for the coming of Christ. Bach composed three cantatas for this occasion.

Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe, BWV 167, dates from his first year in Leipzig, 1723, right in the beginning of his tenure as Thomas Kantor. It is a fairly short cantata compared to the others he presented that first month in Leipzig, so it's not impossible that there was a second - lost - cantata performed that day.

The following year, 1724, he uses a text from Martin Luther for Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7, following the structure of his chorale cantata cycle he started on Trinitatis I 1724. It is based on a hymn by Martin Luther (1483-1546).

Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV 30, is from much later, 1738, and is a very happy celebratory cantata, dating from a period in which Bach did not compose too many cantatas anymore. It also illustrates that his musical style was somewhat changing, under the influence of his sons. It is also a parody cantata, being almost entirely based on the celebratory cantata Angenehmes Wiederau, BWV 30a, which he performed on September 1728 the year before.

Cantatas

  • Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe, BWV 167
    (first performance 24 June 1723, Leipzig period)
  • Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7
    (first performance 24 June 1724, Leipzig period)
  • Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV 30
    (first performance 24 June 1738 or later, Leipzig period)