The second thing that will strike you about BWV 194 is its length. At over forty minutes long its two parts, straddling the consecration of a new organ, may possibly reduce your backside to numbness. Fortunately your mind and heart will still be attentive because this is really a very attractive cantata. The musical novelty will be the first thing to strike you about this work. Right from its opening bars it sounds like an orchestral suite. The opening movement is a French overture, with the voices entering at the allegro and the arias are a pastorale, a gavotte, a gigue and a minuet respectively. The explanation for this unusual form of cantata is that it was parodied from an earlier cantata (BWV 194a, now lost) that was written for the court of Anhalt-Cöthen where turning a popular orchestral form into a cantata would have made a lot of sense.
The first part starts with the French-overture chorus mentioned above and continues with a recitative leading into the finest aria of the cantata, God's eternal shining light, sung by the bass. If you're not in heaven after the first few bars of orchestral introduction, I only have pity for you! A further recitative leads into the soprano aria, itself very attractive. The first part draws to a close with a straightforward chorale setting. The second part opens with a tenor recitative which leads into the tenor aria which is the only real disappointment of the work. A very spare accompaniment and vocal line that seem out of place here. The soprano and bass provide the recitative that introduces their duet. Now, this latter has a really attractive tune but Bach spins out the material to about ten minutes! I can only assume that something was happening in the service at the time - "Herr Bach, more music please, we are not finished". A little bit of a shame, but it is a lovely melody! A final recitative leads into an uncomplicated chorale setting and the cantata draws to a close.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.