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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (O eternal Fire, O fount of Love)

Cantata 34

  • Whitsunday
  • Epistle: Acts ii. 1-13 (The descent of the Holy Spirit)
  • Gospel: John xiv. 23-31 (If a man loves Me, he will keep my word)
  • Rating 1*

It may be a cliché but it is so true: One of the great joys of listening to music is the knowledge that there is always so much more out there than you already know. Rich veins of inspiration just waiting to be discovered.

Cantata BWV 34 provides and example of such. If you've never heard it, or heard of it, make your way as speedily as possible to amend the situation. Adapted from a wedding cantata (BWV 34a), in structure it is very simple: Opening chorus, recitative, aria, recitative, closing chorus. In content, it is sublime. The aria, Happy are ye, ye chosen souls, is possibly the most beautiful that Bach composed. It is the sort of music that sends shivers down the spine, knocks the stuffing out of you and compels you to listen to it. The opening and closing choruses are both excellent. The former especially, at eight minutes long, is "large scale" Bach at his finest.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.