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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Es erhub sich ein Streit (A Battle arose)

Cantata 19

  • St. Michael
  • Epistle: Revelations xii. 7-12 (War in Heaven)
  • Gospel: Matthew xviii. 1-11 (Whoever humbles himself is greatest in heaven)
  • Rating: 2+

Based on the story of war in heaven in Revelation, this cantata may very well have been inspired by J.C. Bach's (J.S's uncle) eponymous work. The magnificent opening chorus describes the battle and St. Michael's triumph over Satan. An oft commented feature here (Albert Schweitzer described it as "a sin against both the text and the music") is Bach's use of da capo form. Once the battle is over, it promptly starts all over again! A recitative leads into a much more relaxed soprano aria and this in turn is followed by a recitative and the notable tenor aria Bleibt, ihr Engel. This is a lilting siciliano with the trumpet supplying a chorale descant. The continuo part may remind you of the sinfonia from the Christmas Oratorio. A fine chorale setting ends the cantata.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.