Gott ist mein König, a cantata for the inauguration of the Mühlhausen town council in February 1708, was the first piece of Bach's music to be published and in fact remained the only cantata to appear in print during his lifetime. It is also one of Bach's earliest cantatas. The work starts in suitably festive mood with a flourish on the trumpet and drums and a rousing opening chorus. The temperature immediately drops, though, in the first aria (a duet for soprano and tenor) and this is followed by quite a curiosity: A vocal fugue for the soloists that starts a capella and is only accompanied later by a subdued organ basso. This is a most effective movement. It is followed immediately by another attractive movement, an arioso for bass with very beautiful woodwind and continuo accompaniment. The alto aria that follows has a basically simple accompaniment but occasional interjections from the trumpet and drums lively things up a bit. We're then into the final two choral movements, the first a simple and beautiful melody with flowing orchestral accompaniment and the second a bit of a strange mixture that includes another vocal fugue for the soloists. This ending for the cantata always strikes me as being strangely low key.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.