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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiss (A heart that knows its living Jesus)

Cantata 134

  • Easter Tuesday
  • Epistle: Acts xiii. 26-33 (Paul preaches the risen Christ at Antioch)
  • Gospel: Luke xxiv. 36-47 (Jesus appears to the twelve)
  • Rating: 1

Cantata 134 originally appeared in secular form as BWV 134a, a congratulatory cantata for the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen. Bach made a straightforward parody of this piece for a version of BWV 134 in 1724 but later revised it, improving the parody procedure, sometime after 1731. However, if there's anything to criticise in this extremely tuneful and uplifting cantata it is that the words are still really rather general purpose. The recitatives, in particular, do go on a bit with very little purpose!

The cantata starts with a tenor recitative that leads into an alto arioso. Business really starts with the tenor aria where, as in the other non-recitative parts of this cantata, the excellent orchestral accompaniment provides tremendous pleasure. The tenor line goes quite high, especially in the opening Auf, auf that defines the aria, and a light high voice will probably make the best of this. The duet between alto and tenor that follows the next recitative is very fine indeed and benefits from a wonderful string orchestral introduction that has a mesmeric hook in it. As so often in the cantatas, one asks whether this is a hint of something greater, now lost to us. The cantata ends with soloists and chorus answering the tenor aria. This makes a glorious conclusion to a musically, if not textually fine cantata.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.