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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Widerstehe doch der Sünde (Hold thou firm against all evil)

Cantata 54

  • Sunday Oculi, Third Sunday in Lent
  • Gospel: Ephesians v. 1-9 (Try then to imitate God)
  • Epistle: Luke xi. 14-28 (Jesus and Beelzebal)
  • Rating: 1+

An early, short (around twelve minutes) cantata in three movements for solo alto concerning the avoidance of sin and the temptations of Satan. If dominant sevenths over a thumping tonic pedal turn you on, head straight for the first movement. The use of this dissonance is an ingenious and direct portayal of the title. The tune given to the alto is wonderful and I can never resist singing along here! This sounds like a piece that would be quite easy to arrange for voice plus a couple of instrumentalists. I'm surprised that I've never heard it done that way, since the first movement, despite its somewhat old-fashioned portrayal of sin, would make an excellent showcase for a singer. The first movement takes up two-thirds of the cantata and is followed by a recitative and a four part fugal aria in which, unusually, the vocalist takes one of the voices of the fugue. Lots of lovely dissonance too!

Copyright © 1995 & 1997, Simon Crouch.

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