12 February 2023 – Today is Sexagesima, the second Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and less than 60 days to Easter. One step closer to the beginning of Lent. And Pre-Lent (read: carnival) is heating up. Not so much in Protestant 17th century Germany though I think. Three cantatas for you today, an earlier one from the Weimar period, and two from Leipzig.
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18, is a very early Weimar cantata, probably created in 1713, with a young Bach experimenting with the new Italian musical style elements he got to know through work by Vivaldi. This cantata was performed again more than ten years later in Leipzig, at which point he changed the instrumentation somewhat. This later setting is the one used for most recordings, but the performance by La Petite Bande in your playlist uses the original Weimar setting, confirmed to me by Sigiswald Kuijken himself.
Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister, BWV 181, is from the first Leipzig cycle, and is a very short cantata, probably because it was performed together with Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18 (in the Leipzig setting), one before and one after the sermon.
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126, is from one year later from the chorale cantata cycle. It uses a hymn originally written by Martin Luther in 1536, but expanded (with a different melody) by Justus Jonas, followed by part of another Luther hymn, and another Luther hymn makes up the end. So a hymn based on four sources and three melodies.
- Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18
(first performance 19 February 1713?, Weimar period)
- Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister, BWV 181
(first performance 13 February 1724, Leipzig period)
- Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126
(first performance 4 February 1725, Leipzig period)
The Netherlands Bach Society website (in Dutch) has more information and a performance of BWV 18:
Choose one of these streaming services to listen to this playlist:
Image of the day
A view of the Herderplatz in Weimar from the southeast (etching by L. Oeder, 1840). The church of Saint-Paul and Saint-Peter, also known as the Herderkirche, saw the premieres of several Bach cantatas. John Eliot Gardiner suggests that Bach cantatas using a festive orchestra were first performed there, including his first cantata for Christmas, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63 and Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret, BWV 31 for the Easter Sunday of 1715, scored for soloists, a five-part choir and three instrumental groups. Bach frequently played the organ, and two of his sons were baptized in the church.