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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele (Praise the Lord, oh my soul)

Cantata 143

  • Circumcision (New Year's Day)
  • Epistle: Galatians iii. 23-29 (We are all one in Christ)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 21 (His name shall be called Jesus)
  • Rating: 3

The striking thing about this short cantata is precisely it's shortness.

There are a number of interesting themes and ideas and none of the movements is bereft of inspiration, but there seems to be a decided lack of a satisfactory working out of any of those ideas. This strikes me as somewhat strange: If Bach was pressed for time, why did he score it for the unusual (perhaps unique) combination of three hunting horns (Corni da caccia)? The opening movement is a jolly affair, with the three horns to the fore and is probably the most interesting part of the cantata, if you're just passing through. This is followed by the soprano singing the chorale melody accompanied by an attractive violin figure. A recitative is followed by three arias in succession: The first for tenor, second for bass and the third for tenor again. Of these, the first tenor aria is the most satisfactory but even here, an interesting figure is allowed to peter out into routine. The cantata ends with a Hallelujah! (featuring those three horns again) which introduces, and continues under, the sopranos singing the chorale melody. Perhaps you would like to listen to this cantata if only to see whether you are as puzzled by it as I was. It's worth remarking that scholars have cast doubt on this work to the extent that although the 1998 BWV retains BWV 143 in its main section (but remarks that the work's authenticity is uncertain), the New Grove worklist relegates the work to its list of doubtful and spurious pieces.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.