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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (Let our mouth be full of laughter)

Cantata 110

  • Christmas Day
  • Epistle: Titus ii. 11-14 (The grace of God has appeared to me)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 1-14 (The Nativity of Christ)
  • Rating: 1

You will probably immediately recognise the opening chorus of cantata BWV 110 for the very good reason that it is an adaptation of the first movement of the very well known and popular D-major overture BWV 1069. And what an adaptation! If you want a simple demonstration of Bach's skill in adapting a piece of music written for one context to fit a new context then this is it. The choral part starts at the 9/8 allegro and had the original overture been lost, you might never suspect its independent existence, so seamless is the adaptation.

After such an exuberant opening the following aria, recitative, aria, duet section of the piece lowers the temperature. The first aria for tenor is introduced and accompanied by a delightful duet for flutes. The second aria for alto likewise benefits from the presence of an oboe d'amore. Perhaps neither of these movements has an outstanding vocal line but the strength of the instrumental parts makes them well worth attention. The duet for soprano and tenor has a very simple organ and continuo accompaniment but two good singers should thoroughly delight you. If you know the original E-flat version of the Magnificat BWV 243a, you will recognise this movement as one of the interpolations. This one from Virga Jesse floruit from the Roman rite. The final aria of the cantata, this time for the bass, warms things up again: Wacht auf, Wacht auf! Glorious and thoroughly stirring. The cantata ends with a very beautiful chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.