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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Schleicht, spielande Wellen (Glide playful waves)

Cantata 206

  • Birthday of August III
  • Rating: 2+

Originally composed in 1734 but actually performed in 1735, cantata BWV 206 is a "happy birthday to you" for August III, elector of Saxony. The text is typically silly (or charming, depending on your point of view), with four rivers attempting to outdo each other in praising August until they all come together in joint praise of their master.

The opening chorus "Glide playful waves" is a real beauty, lilting triple metre suggesting the waves on the rivers. Perhaps also, the style points to an origin in a lost instrumental piece? A recitative leads into a busy bass aria accompanied by insistent strings. Another recitative leads to the not particularly interesting tenor aria. The alto has a much more interesting orchestral accompaniment but even here the vocal line is somewhat routine. The soprano aria is much better, a joyful little tune accompanied by three flutes. Finally the closing chorus is another tremendous triple metre dance, well worth the price of admission!

Copyright © 1999, Simon Crouch.