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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wer sucht die Pracht, wer wünscht den Glanz (Who seeks the splendour, who desires the radiance)

Cantata 221

  • Solo cantata for tenor and bass
  • Rating: 2

The cantatas BWV 217-222 are all now regarded as either being of dubious provenance or, in some cases, are definitely identified as being by composers other than J.S. Bach. However, it's worth considering them here because it is still possible that one or two of them may actually be genuine and since there is also a good quality recording available of this set (conducted by Wolfgang Helbich on CPO 999139-2), so that listeners can come to their own conclusions!

BWV 221 remains in Anhang II of the BWV (which is reserved for works of uncertain origin that have not yet been definitely identified as being by anybody else) and is discussed in the critical commentary to NBA I/18. A straightforward and attractive sinfonia opens the work. To me this is more in a style reminiscent of Handel than of Bach. A tenor recitative leads into a fine tenor/bass duet which reinforces this Handelian feeling. A bass recitative then leads into the long central tenor aria. This is, despite a strong accompanying violin line, less interesting than would be suggested by what has preceeded it. A bass recitative leads into a short and attractive bass aria and a final tenor recitative preceeds the upbeat concluding tenor/bass duet. To my ears, not a single hint of JSB here!

Copyright © 1998, Simon Crouch.

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