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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Schwingt freudig euch empor (Soar joyfully on high)

Cantata 36

  • First Sunday in Advent
  • Epistle: Romans xiii. 11-14 (Our salvation is nearer than we believe)
  • Gospel: Matthew xxi. 1-9 (Christ's entry into Jerusalem)
  • Rating: 2+

Cantata BWV 36 had a complicated genesis which I won't attempt to fully unravel here other than to say that much of the music is derived from three secular cantatas, BWV's 36a, 36b and 36c. The latter two are still extant but the music is lost from the first (apart, of course, from that adapted into BWV 36). Another notable feature of this work is the replacement of recitative by interpolated chorale. There are four chorale movements, three of which are verses from Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland (see BWV's 61 and 62, for example).

The opening movement is a jolly affair (suitable for the season!) and is soon followed by the first chorale interpolation, here arranged as an attractive duet for soprano and alto with oboe d'amore accompaniment. The oboe d'amore gets to feature prominently in the following tenor aria with a lovely introductory line. The aria itself is attractive without being as memorable as the introduction would lead you to believe it should be. The first part of the cantata draws to a close with verse 6 from Philip Nicolai's Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (See BWV 1, for example).

The second part of the cantata opens with an unremarkable but jolly bass aria. Here again, the attractive string introduction might suggest that better is to come. In the secular cantata version (BWV 36c), this is pretty much a Happy birthday to you aria! The next chorale gets a lively accompaniment from the oboe d'amore whilst the tenor sings the hymn tune in long notes. The final aria, for soprano, is the best one, where for once the vocal line doesn't let the instrumental line down. This is a delicate little beauty worth making a detour for. The cantata draws to a close with another verse of Luther's hymn.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

Trumpet