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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Come Redeemer of the Gentiles)

Cantata 61

  • First Sunday In Advent
  • Epistle: Romans xiii. 11-14 (Our salvation is nearer than we believe)
  • Gospel: Matthew xxi. 1-9 (Christ's entry into Jerusalem)
  • Rating: 1

The opening chorus of cantata BWV 61 grandly introduces the tune of Luther's hymn tune Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland with a fine dotted rhythm accompaniment. Having got the theme out of the way, it's down to business with a fugue. It's nice to know that there are things in life that you can rely upon. A recitative is followed by a lovely tenor aria in triple time. The violins get a pretty and lush tune in accompaniment. Next a recitative. Usually I pass over recitatives without comment, after all a recit. is a recit. isn't it? This next one, though, is a peach. Pizzicato chords accompanying Behold, I stand at the door and knock. OK, so maybe it's corny but I like it. The final aria is given to the soprano soloist. This is a lovely and delicate aria and the soloist must show great sensitivity to get the most from it.

When I first heard Harnoncourt's recording in the Teldec series, I thought that the poor boy treble was badly under-rehearsed but I've grown to like it, since his slightly lispy voice makes it sound rather cute! Also, the words are Open wide, my heart, Jesus is coming and entering in, so it seems rather appropriate that it's sung by someone sounding sweet and innocent rather than sophisticated.

My only regret about the closing chorus is that it doesn't go on for longer. It's one of those off-to-the-races pieces upon which amateur choral societies love to work up a head of steam. A glorious ending!

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.