Cantata 78 starts with one of the most glorious choruses in all music. In the form of a passacaglia above a chromatic descending motif built from a basically simple figure and incorporating the chorale melody, this astonishing piece simply takes the breath away. An equally astonishing contrast is provided by the following movement: Wir eilen - We hasten with weak but diligent steps to you for help, Oh Jesus, Oh Master which you simply have to hear to believe! The accompaniment simply patters along. It's difficult but to picture members of the congregation having to stifle a few giggles. A recitative is followed by a tenor aria with a delicious obbligato flute part. A further recitative is followed by another aria, this time with a lovely sinuous oboe part. A straightforward chorale setting finishes the cantata.
For more on this astoundingly beautiful cantata, do please look at Marshall's essay On Bach's Universality in his collected essays. "I can think of no more spectacular demonstration of Bach's powers of synthesis, his unparalleled combinatorial genius…"
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.