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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut (Exalted flesh and blood)

Cantata 173

  • Whit Monday
  • Epistle: Acts x. 42-48 (Descent of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius)
  • Gospel: John iii. 16-21 (God so loved the world)
  • Rating: 2

BWV 173 started life as a tribute to Bach's employer Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, Durchlauchtster Leopold BWV 173a.

This was parodied (presumably to save time in the busy Whitsun period) and the secular original is clearly present in the sacred cantata. The work starts with an introductory recitative which leads into a pleasant but not particularly memorable aria for the tenor soloist. This is followed by another rather anonymous aria, this time for the alto soloist. Things start to become much more interesting with the next aria which is a duet for soprano and bass, or rather it becomes a duet towards the end of the movement. Up until that point, introduced by a quickening of the pace of the violins, the soprano soloist simply answers the bass soloist. This is a very attractive piece and is well worth seeking out. A recitative leads into the final movement which is a very uplifting chorus, originally a duet in the secular model.

Copyright © 1997 & 1998, Simon Crouch.