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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (And in the evening of that very Sabbath)

Cantata 42

  • First Sunday after Easter
  • Epistle: 1 John v. 4-10 (Faith overcomes the world)
  • Gospel: John xx. 19-31 (Christ appears to the twelve)
  • Rating: 1

One of the fascinating features of the cantatas is the use of parody. This is the adaptation of previously existing material to a new work. This occurs all over Bach's oeuvre, perhaps most notably in the b-minor Mass and in the Christmas Oratorio. This procedure was rather frowned upon in the past, perhaps because of our romantic notions of artistic originality. So what? I say. I rather enjoy hearing great material being used in different contexts. One of the most fortunate consequences of the parody technique where Bach is concerned is that occasionally we come across bits of otherwise lost works. An excellent example of this is the St. Mark Passion where we have the libretto but the music is lost. However, musicologists have been able to make reasonable reconstructions of the work because much of the music appears in the cantatas (especially BWV 198). Here we have another example. The opening sinfonia of this cantata sounds decidedly as though it's the opening movement of a lost concerto and since Bach did use known concerto movements in this way, it's a fair bet that here we do have a bit of such a work. It's rather good, well up to Brandenburg Concerto standard. After a recitative, there's a long alto aria that itself may use music from a slow movement of the same concerto. It's a very gentle and very beautiful piece. The rest of this cantata is, perhaps, not up to the standard of these movements but still is enjoyable. The following duet is driven nicely by a jerky, octave leaping continuo part and after another recitative, the final aria is workmanlike rather than inspired. As usual, the cantata finishes with a chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.