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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit (Make thyself ready, my spirit)

Cantata 115

  • Twenty-second Sunday After Trinity
  • Epistle: Phil. i. 3-11 (Paul's love for the Philippians)
  • Gospel: Matthew xviii. 23-35 (Parable of the unmerciful servant)
  • Rating: 1

The parable of the unmerciful servant in the Gospel for the day leads on to the theme of judgement. The mood is pretty black, the cantata ending with the cheery words …For the time is not far off, when God will judge us and annihilate the world. This being a chorale cantata, the opening is a fine choral fantasia which leads into the alto aria Ach, schläfrige Seele. The mood and style of this beautiful aria may very well remind you of Erbarme dich from the St. Matthew Passion, though I think that it's fair to say that this doesn't quite ascend to the heights of genius of that great aria. The tension isn't held as well and the aria seems over long. Sandwiched between two recitatives is a fine soprano aria with sweet and attractive flute accompaniment and the cantata ends with the grim words of the concluding chorale.

This is one of those cantatas that needs a really great performance to achieve its potential. The opening fantasia needs pepping up and both the arias require great differentiation of tone and expression to sustain the musical tension.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.