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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the best of all)
"Actus Tragicus"

Cantata 106

  • Funeral Cantata
  • Rating 1*

Cantata 106 doesn't fit into one of the yearly cycles of church cantatas, being a funeral ode. It was probably written very early on in Bach's career when he was at Mülhausen, though whose funeral it was seems to be in doubt. It's difficult to imagine that a more tranquil, contemplative atmosphere could be evoked by a piece of music. This is very, very beautiful and fragile indeed. Perhaps this fragility means that it requires an excellent performance to really work. Luckily, Leonhardt's performance in the Teldec complete series is absolutely outstanding and I thoroughly recommend it to you. The cantata opens with a sonatina, two recorders above two viola da gambas. The recorders stay in unison for most of the time (as they do throughout the entire cantata), their occasional parting to lovely effect. A long chorus in several sections (the text is assembled from diverse parts of the bible) follows. My particular favourite part is the vivace section in the middle where the two recorders play fast arpeggios in unison. Pity the poor players, they're having to sweat whilst everyone else is contemplative! Next is a duet between alto and bass. Well, it starts off as alto solo then becomes bass solo then the alto rejoins singing a chorale melody. The final chorus starts with a Gloria and then is off into a short but marvellous Amen fugue.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

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