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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wer da glaubet (He who believeth)

Cantata 37

  • Ascension Day
  • Epistle: Acts i. 1-11 (Christ prepares His disciples for the Ascension)
  • Gospel: Mark xvi. 14-20 (Christ ascends into heaven)
  • Rating: 2+

Even if the extent of Bach's cantata oeuvre is too much to take, it is hard for one to deny the outstanding nature of many individual movements, especially the opening choruses. Hence it is frequently worth making a detour into these works just to hear these. Here is a case in point: Cantata BWV 37 is probably not an outstanding work. The libretto is standard for the cantatas, the music good but not consistently good, but the opening chorus is a masterpiece. The fine oboe d'amore line, immediately after the opening chord, establishes a genial atmosphere in which one may sit back and marvel at the musical development. The following tenor aria is missing the violin accompaniment but this can apparently be easily reconstructed (in style if nothing else) to give a pleasant enough movement. The third movement is a fine chorale duet between soprano and alto on Philipp Nicolai's wonderful hymn Wie schön leuchet der Morgenstern (see BWV 1, for example). The final aria for bass follows a recitative and benefits from a catchy orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the vocal line doesn't quite come up to the standard of the orchestral line. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

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