Bach was only 22 when he landed his third church job, as organist of St Blasius in the city of Muehlhausen. His audition was on Easter Sunday of 1707 – imagine the stress! – and there’s a good chance that his audition piece was this very cantata.
If so, Bach hit a home run: the Muehlhausen city council met a month later, and no one even discussed any other musician. His second interview was on the 14th of June. The very next day, Bach signed his contract.
For this cantata, Bach used a text by Martin Luther. Unlike some of his later Easter Sunday works, it’s not a bright, joyous piece – but it’s not by any means dark. It’s celebratory, all right, but in a reserved, pensive way.
Bach opens with the chorus, the sopranos carrying the melody and the violins adding florid decorations. He keeps the mood relatively somber until the text says "des wir sollen fröhlich sein" ("thus we should be joyful"). Finally, then, he starts to open things up.
Bach was both a sensitive musician and a devout one: he wrote the letters SDG (Soli Deo Gloria, or glory only to God) at the end of every sacred manuscript. Thus he didn’t hesitate to use word-painting to illuminate the religious meaning of this cantata. He writes scales around "Menschenkinder" and "Tod, " ("mankind" and "death") and assigns strong chords to the words "Recht" ("rule") and "Gewalt" ("power"). He paints the phrase "Tods Gestalt" ("death’s empty shell") in a dim, hazy light. His voices chase each other as "Tod und Leben ringen" ("death and life battled"), and "ein Tod den andern fraß" ("one death ate the other").
Then Bach drives home his point. A low part for the bass and a surprisingly dissonant orchestral part represent the Passion – and then rising scales in the violins symbolize the Resurrection. He ends with an elegantly direct setting of the gospel lesson for the day, "Christus will die Koste sein" ("Christ will be the sustenance").
Bach must have thought this cantata was effective, because he didn’t let it gather library dust forever. In his harried, overworked Leipzig days, he revived it not once, but twice – for Easter Sunday of 1724, and again on Easter of 1725.
||2. Coro [Versus I]
Christ lag in Todesbanden
Für unsre Sünd gegeben,
Er ist wieder erstanden
Und hat uns bracht das Leben;
Des wir sollen fröhlich sein,
Gott loben und ihm dankbar sein
Und singen halleluja,
|2. Chorus [Verse 1]
Christ lay in the bonds of death,
For our sin was given;
He is risen again
And has brought us life;
Thus we should be joyful,
Praise God and be thankful to Him
And sing hallelujah,
|3. Duetto [Versus II]
Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt
Bei allen Menschenkindern,
Das macht alles unsre Sünd,
Kein Unschuld war zu finden.
Davon kam der Tod so bald
Und nahm über uns Gewalt,
Hielt uns in seinem Reich gefangen.
|3. Duet [Verse 2]
Death could capture no one
Among all mankind;
[But] As a result of our sin,
There was no innocence to be found.
Thereby death quickly came,
Classical music suggestions?
I've found some classical music that I really like but the genre is so broad that I'm having a hard time finding other songs that I like. Any recommendations based on what I've found that like so far would be greatly appreciated!
This is what I've found so far that I actually like:
The Swan (artist?)
Piece E Force De Habanera, Moris Ravel
Scheherazade, James Last
Claire de Lune, debussy
The Winter allegro, Vivaldi
as well as some modern artists like Phillip Glass and Howard Shore
Really any help in the right direction would be very much appreciated!