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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit (If God were not with us at this time)

Cantata 14

  • Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
  • Epistle: Romans xiii. 8-10 (Love is the fulfilling of the law)
  • Gospel: Matthew viii. 23-27 (Christ stills the tempest)
  • Rating: 1

This very late chorale cantata, among the latest that have come down to us, demonstrates that although Bach may have been losing the motivation to write cantatas, he had certainly lost none of the skill. The opening chorus of this relatively short work (a little over fifteen minutes long) is a superb choral motet that Alfred Durr describes as a "foretaste of Bach's late contrapuntal works". If you enjoy those, you will delight in this. After such a serious and formal opening, the mood is lightened by two delightfully catchy tunes in the soprano and the bass arias respectively, that perhaps don't reflect the sombre mood of the libretto very accurately. A notable feature of the soprano aria, and indeed of the opening chorus, lies in the use of the corno da caccia (hunting horn). In the former it is used athletically as an obbligato instrument and in the latter reinforcing the chorale melody. The bass aria is delightfully accompanied by a pair of oboes. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.