Whittaker describes the opening aria of cantata BWV 24 as "One of the most sterile things Bach ever wrote. The craftsman is present, the composer is not, and for that Neumeister's deadly dull libretto must be blamed". How does one follow that? The libretto throughout the cantata, it must be admitted, is singularly mediocre (basically a rather tedious poem about how we all ought to be better people) with the first line An unstained mind of German truth and goodness which is bound to raise the hackles in the late twentieth century. Fortunately, it doesn't continue in such jingoistic vein, it just gets dull. However, I have to disagree with Whittaker about the music. The opening aria is certainly not the most inspired piece that Bach wrote but it is a perfectly genial and rather attractive piece of music which just happens to not fit the words well at all! After a recitative, there is an attractive chorus (setting words from St. Matthew), a further recitative and an aria which I find to be the least interesting part of the cantata. The concluding chorale setting is certainly worthy of attention, the orchestration is most attractive. In conclusion, it is perhaps not worth your while to make a detour to hear this cantata (incidentally, one of the earliest that Bach wrote whilst at Leipzig) but it is certainly not worth making a detour to avoid it.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.