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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (To Thee, Lord, I lift up my soul)

Cantata 150

  • Unknown Occasion
  • Rating: 1

Had I been asked to perform a blind identification of the composer of this cantata, I would have immediately said "Buxtehude". It's probably one of music's greatest tragedies that we have lost a vast mass of Buxtehude's choral works as well as much of his chamber work and only have the organ works to console us. Having said this, the catalogues that I have to hand show that this is not considered a spurious or even dubious attribution to Bach these days and if you listen to this cantata in the context of other early works (this is dated 1708/9) and consider that the young Bach was likely influenced by the older composer then you will probably agree that this is a very fine example of the young master at work.

This is one those cantatas in which every movement has something for somebody and the libretto is happily up the standard of the music! The work opens with a solemn string sinfonia which leads into a short opening chorus in the style of a motet. This is followed by a short and attractive soprano aria. The next chorus, also in motet style, starts with a bold ascending scale after which the line is handed between the parts most effectively. Unusually, the following aria is a trio for alto, tenor and bass. Next is a chorus with an attractive prelude which leads into a fugal section. The final movement is a choral chaconne. It is compulsory to go and listen to the final movement of Brahms' fourth symphony after hearing this movement. Brahms was one of the few original subscribers to the Bach Gesellschaft edition and was so impressed with this movement that he quoted the bass line in his symphony. All of these goodies are packed into a little over fifteen minutes. It's a lovely little cantata. Do listen to it!

Incidentally, if you have never heard any of Buxtehude's excellent cantatas, may I suggest that you make your way rapidly to the nearest CD store and purchase, for example, Channel Classics CCS 7895, where Jos van Immerseel and company make an excellent case for six of these insanely neglected pieces.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.