Colin Baldy and Oliver Gerish

Bach Cantatas and Marcello, Oboe Concerto

Thursday 5th July, 7.30pm, St Mary's Church

Over 200 of Bach’s cantatas survive. They were written to be performed at Sunday evening services, to the texts set for the day in the Lutheran lectionary. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that Bach actually composed closer to 400 cantatas, thus covering pretty much the entire lectionary. 

Ich habe genug was composed for the Presentation of Christ in the temple. It is the sing of Simeon though Bach, typically, expands on the Biblical text to imagine Simeon’s great relief at finally having seen the Messiah. 
For a long time, Widerstehe doch Der Sünde was thought to be incomplete. There are only three parts: two arias with a recitative in the middle. And yet it forms a beautiful whole. In 1970, it became apparent that nothing was missing at all, when a volume of libretti by Christian Lehms from 1711 came to light, containing the text used by Bach for this cantata. It also clarified the occasion of the piece. Lehms indicates that the text was intended for Oculi, the fourth Sunday before Easter, rather than the fourth Sunday after Trinity, as had been presumed up to then. Oculi occurs in Lent, a period when although no cantatas were sung in Leipzig, they were sung in Weimar. So the first performance of Widerstehe doch der Sünde probably took place as early as 4 March 1714 in Weimar. Two days before that, Bach had been officially appointed concert master, and he thus proved straight away that he was fully capable of meeting his new obligations – delivering a new piece of church music every month.
The noble Marcello brothers were distinguished sons of Venice. Alessandro, two years older than Benedetto, was a philosopher and a mathematician as well as a composer. He died in 1750, the same year as Bach. His D minor Oboe Concerto reflects the familiar and civilized language of the Baroque and thus provides an interesting comparison to the contrasting moods of the later style of Bellini. Marcello maintains a ‘single affection’ within each movement, where contrasts of texture and volume are wrought, but not of senti­ment. The Adagio is notable, apart from its general ambience, for its upwardly-spiralling oboe theme, enhanced by distinctive ornamentation. The final Presto is delightfully light and fleet-footed and provides a felicitous ending to a most engaging piece.

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