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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Ich will den Kreutzstab gerne tragen (I will gladly carry the Cross)

Cantata 56

  • Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Ephesians iv. 22-28 (Put on the new man)
  • Gospel: Matthew ix 1-8 (The sick are healed)
  • Rating: 1*

The opening aria of this great solo cantata is one of those wonderful examples of Bach's music being perfectly at one with the text. For example, in the opening phrase, the resolution of a dissonant C sharp to D (in g minor) immediately gives the impression of the enormous burden of the Cross being lifted with God's help. The cantata goes on, with the familiar metaphor of life as a journey through troubled lands until salvation is reached in the promised land. Meanwhile a recitative, complete with "waves" (an allusion to Jesus' boat journey at the start of the gospel reading) leads on to an aria complete with one of those wonderful oboe accompaniments that so frequenty decorate the cantatas. I often wonder whether Bach's oboe player(s) appreciated what he was doing for them! To me these beautiful weaving, sometimes coy, oboe accompaniments are among the greatest jewels that Bach has left to us. As a flute player myself, I regret that the transverse flute wasn't as widely used then as it soon became. If it had, we could have had a few more of these wonderful tunes to ourselves! Another recitative leads to the final chorale (Komm, oh tod, du schlafes bruder) beautifully harmonised by Bach.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.