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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen (All those from Sheba shall come)

Cantata 65

  • Epiphany
  • Epistle: Isaah lx. 1-16 (The Gentiles shall come to your light)
  • Gospel: Matthew ii. 1-12 (The wise men seek Christ)
  • Rating: 1*

In a similar vein to BWV 1, this is a very happy cantata (which it should be, given the Gospel story that it follows). I hesitated before giving this a starred rating because this isn't one of those pieces that sends shivers down my spine (my primary guide as to when to give a star). Rather, it is tremendous fun to sing! The opening chorus is one of the best, with tremendously exciting fugal writing. And what's that being played by the horns in bar five and sung by the choir five bars before the end? Sounds like wo ist dein Sieg from Denn wir haben in the Brahms Requiem. Hm, I wonder! There follows chorale, recitative and an attractive aria in which the giving of the gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense is portrayed. Then there is a superb, supercharged tenor aria: Very hard to stop myself from singing along! The chorale Ei, nun, mein Gott, so fall'ich dir finishes the cantata.

Sie Werden aus Saba gives a very good illustration of the reflective discourse upon the subject matter that occurs in the best of the cantatas. Not only is the story of the giving of the gifts told but there is also a very personal, intimate reflection of the struggle going on the Soul. The first aria starts: Gold is not enough…away with empty gifts…, the following recitative is almost saying "it's not the gift, but the thought that counts" and so on. There is a build up of tension followed by resolution in the libretto, mirrored by tension-resolution in the music.

Copyright © 1995 & 1997, Simon Crouch.