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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden (Whoever himself exalteth shall be abased)

Cantata 47

  • Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Ephesians iv. 1-6 (Exhortation to unity)
  • Gospel: Luke xiv. 1-11 (Christ heals the dropsical man)
  • Rating: 2+

If you know the prelude and fugue in c minor BWV 546 for organ, you may very well recognise the opening movement of this cantata. A lot of the material from the organ work has gone into fashioning this mighty choral movement. The text is from the very final part of the Gospel: Whoever himself exalteth shall be abased and he who gains humility shall be exalted over. Stand back and admire this mighty fugal work!

After the opening chorus Bach immediately cuts down the scale of things with a very simple, sparely accompanied soprano aria. The aria, at nearly ten minutes, is very long and you may well feel, as I do, that it outstays its welcome. The recitative is followed by a bass aria that is far more interesting. There's a very genial accompaniment from the oboe and violins that lightens the mood, as is appropriate to the more positive message of the libretto. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

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