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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Das neugebor'ne Kindelein (The newborn child)

Cantata 122

  • Sunday after Christmas
  • Epistle: Galatians iv 1-7 (Christ is sent to redeem those under the law)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 33-40 (Christ is born for the redemption of Israel)
  • Rating: 2

One might well have expected a cantata for this Sunday to be a rather joyful affair, especially given that its first verse is Unto the world this morn, our little Jesus child was born, Christians rejoice the news to hear, which brings to all a glad new year. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear the rather muted nature of the music in the opening chorus. It's fine music, but it sounds rather out of place. So, what's going on? The game is given away in the following bass aria: O mortals, ye who face damnation…. Sorry people, you've had too good a time over Christmas, so it's time to get the moral hangover: Along with salvation comes damnation! This aria is rather long, very sparely accompanied and rather chromatic. It needs a bass with the voice of Méphistophélès if it not to become dull. The recitative that follows is thoroughly expressive and has a nice instrumental touch from a trio of recorders upon the words fill all Heaven with celestial song. Next is a trio for soprano, alto and tenor: It's an attractive movement without being outstanding, in which the alto sings the chorale melody in the middle of the texture while the outer parts sing the aria proper. The cantata draws to a close with a recitative and a straightforward setting of the chorale melody.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.