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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (Lord Jesus Christ, Thou highest good)

Cantata 113

  • Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 1 Corinthians xv. 1-10 (Christ's resurrection)
  • Gospel: Luke xviii. 9-14 (Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican)
  • Rating: 2

A very serious atmosphere pervades this chorale cantata, amplified by the prominent role that the hymn tune plays throughout. Indeed, perhaps the most interesting parts of this piece are the various accompaniments. The opening chorus is a fairly straightforward chorale setting with orchestral accompaniment. This is followed by another verse of the hymn sung by solo alto, here there is a lengthy and attractive string introduction. The bass aria introduces the lightness of 12/8 time and a pair of oboe's d'amore weaving along in the way that only Bach in triple time can do. But still, the soloist is quaking with fear and fright, somewhat at odds with the music. The next movement, which alternates lines of the hymn with lines of recitative, is followed by the most attractive movement in the cantata: An aria for tenor accompanied by flute. What a flute part! One day I might think about trying to play it, but I think I might have to practice a bit harder before I can. Not only pyrotechnic but also attractive. The next recitative is followed by a duet for soprano and alto which, although initially appealing, does seem to go on to autopilot for some of the time. The cantata ends with a straightforward setting of the hymn tune.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.