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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Gedenke, Herr, wie es uns gehet (Be mindful of our condition, Lord)

Cantata 217

  • First Sunday after Epiphany
  • Epistle: Romans xii. 1-6 (We are at one in Christ)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 41-52 (Jesus in the temple)
  • Rating: 1

The cantatas BWV 217-222 are all now regarded as either being of dubious provenance or, in some cases, are definitely identified as being by composers other than J.S. Bach. However, it's worth considering them here because it is still possible that one or two of them may actually be genuine and since there is also a good quality recording available of this set (conducted by Wolfgang Helbich on CPO 999139-2), so that listeners can come to their own conclusions!

BWV 217 remains in Anhang II of the BWV (which is reserved for works of uncertain origin that have not yet been definitely identified as being by anybody else). A hushed and beautiful choral opening leads through a recitative into the absolutely gorgeous alto aria "Saget mir beliebte Felder". If anything is going to convince you that this cantata is genuine JSB, then it's the beauty of this aria, with its gentle flute and orchestra accompaniment. Still, it must be admitted that there were many talented tunesmiths around at this time. A second recitative leads into the concluding chorale, beautifully set with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the lilting dance rhythms of this concluding chorale will convince you that this is not by Bach!

This cantata, by Bach or not, is a very nice piece and well worth searching out.

Copyright © 1998, Simon Crouch.