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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munde (Praise Him with heart and voice)

Cantata 220

  • St. John the Baptist
  • Epistle: Isaah xl. 1-5 (Prepare ye the way)
  • Gospel: Luke i. 57-80 (The birth of John the Baptist)
  • Rating: 2+

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 220 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). BWV 220 starts with a straightforward chorale setting that leads into an attractive tenor aria. A bass recitative is followed, via an attractive orchestral introduction, by the fine alto aria "Sich in Gott und Jesu freuen". Having heard little in the opening movements to suggest JSB as composer, a niggling doubt sets in here. The orchestral writing, especially for the featured flute and oboe, together with the strong string melody, suggests a composer of the first rank not too far from Bach in style. The cantata is rounded off by a lively and attractive chorus. Well worth hearing, if only for the alto aria.

Copyright © 1998, Simon Crouch.