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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Geist und Seele wird verwirret (Spirit and soul become confused)

Cantata 35

  • Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 2 Corinthians iii 4-11 (Ministers of a new Covenant)
  • Gospel: Mark vii 31-37 (The deaf man cured)
  • Rating: 1

The solo alto cantata BWV 35 gets such a high rating from me primarily because of its oddity value! It becomes rapidly apparent upon listening to this work that almost all of it has been filched from other sources. Since almost all of those other sources are lost to us, we get a deeply valuable view of what might have been. The first few bars of the opening sinfonia agree with the nine remaining bars of the otherwise lost keyboard concerto BWV 1059 (itself possibly derived from a lost oboe concerto) and it's a reasonable bet that two of the other movements of this cantata are derived from other movements of the concerto. The first aria, a lilting siciliano, may very well come from from the slow movement of the keyboard concerto and the opening sinfonia of part 2 of the cantata is probably from the finale of the concerto. In this incarnation the organ gets the solo part. So, at the very least we probably have most of a lost concerto sitting inside this cantata. Fortunately there is enough left here to reconstruct the concerto and several recordings are avalable that allow us to enjoy this fine work. The second aria from part 1 of the cantata sounds as though it's adapted from a cello or gamba sonata and the final aria in part 2 suggests a violin concerto. (Again, throughout, the organ takes on the obbligato part). Both of these movements are very attractive and thus point to a considerable loss.

Having heaped all this praise upon the components of this cantata, I think that it's fair to tilt the balance the other way a little and say that, as a cantata, this is not a great work. The libretto (based on the gospel of the day) is nothing special and the structure of the composition as a whole feels rather unsatisfactory. (Great Heavens, there isn't even a concluding chorale!) So, listen to this for the music that we nearly lost.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.