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Today's Program

Bach’s arias — the chamber music portion of his cantatas — are unique in music literature. They are demanding and rigorous, and to perform them successfully the vocalist or instrumentalist must have the skill of a virtuouso as well as highly-developed ensemble skills. These are compositions that pit divergent vocal and instrumental capabilities against one another, and just the right inflection and balance of timbres are needed to unlock their magic.

Like the music it performs, The Bach Aria Group is also unique. It is the only musical organization in the world whose sole charter is to promote the performance and study of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

William Scheide, a musicologist and philanthropist, founded the group in 1946, a time when Bach’s cantata literature was known and appreciated by relatively few people.

To combat this lack of awareness, Scheide brought together nine vocalists and instrumentalists, and declared that their mission would be to develop Bach audiences around the world by touring, recording and broadcasting.

In 1980 William Scheide retired. In reorganizing, The Bach Aria Group broadened its mission: it would now seek to place the arias in context with the composer’s instrumental and choral pieces, to illuminate all Bach’s works. The group also established the Bach Aria Festival and Institute which was held annually until 1997, attracting musicians and scholars from throughout the U.S.

The Bach Aria Group enters its fifth decade as one of the longest-running chamber music organizations in the country.

Arias and Duets
Cantata 140:Duet for soprano, bass, violin and continuo Wenn Kömmst du, mein Heil?
Cantata 31:Aria for bass, cello and continuo Fürst des Lebens
Cantata 115:Aria for soprano, flute, cello and continuo Bete aber auch dabei
Cantata 123:Aria for bass, flute and continuo Lass, o Welt
Cantata 205:Aria for soprano, violin and continuo Angenehmer Zephyrus
Trio Sonata in C Minor for flute, violin and continuo, from The Musical Offering BWV 1079Largo

Selections from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach
Arias and Duets
Cantata 211:Aria for soprano, flute and continuo Ei! Wie schmeckt der Coffee süsse
Cantata 126:Aria for bass, cello and continuo Stürze zu Boden
Cantata 120A:Aria for soprano, violin and continuo Leit, O Gott
Cantata 97:Duet for soprano and bass, cello and continuo Hat er es denn beschlossen
Cantata 68:Aria for soprano, cello, flute, violin and continuo Mein gläubiges Herz

THE BACH CANTATAS – Church and Secular by James Pegolotti

In 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, the Lutheran Reformation began. Two hundred years later in 1723, when Johann Sebastian Bach became cantor at the Saint Thomas Church in Leipzig, Lutheranism had a firm hold in Germany. The Lutheran church calendar remained similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church, centered as it was on the major feasts of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Trinity Sunday. The Sunday services themselves, unlike those of Catholicism, utilized singing by soloists and worshippers, as well as instrumental accompaniments. German Baroque composers evolved a structure for these elements that came to be known as a “cantata, ” normally consisting of arias for one or two voices, some recitatives, an original tune for chorus, then a traditional chorale in which the churchgoers could join since they probably knew the song from childhood.

Every Sunday had its own cantata composed by the church’s paid cantor who utilized Biblical text appropriate to the Sunday (e.g. Easter) or an original text on a religious theme. To churn out the numerous cantatas, each composer borrowed liberally from his own previously used melodies and from other composers whose tunes they may have remembered from attending church services elsewhere.

Bach spent his last 27 years on earth in Leipzig and is believed to have composed some 300 cantatas, about two-thirds of which are known to still exist. It is believed that Georg Philipp Telemann, a contemporary of Bach and the director of music for five churches in Hamburg, composed some 1700 church cantatas! That we are listening today to works by Bach and not Telemann suggests once again the genius of J. S. Bach (as well as the lack of a good 21st Century public relations agency for Telemann, who was hardly a hack composer.)

Lutheranism pervaded the entire political and social community, and often Bach would be sought to compose a “secular cantata” to honor members of the University of Leipzig faculty, a newly appointed Town Council, or some other non-religious item of importance. Some 30 of Bach’s secular cantatas survive. (In the BWV numbering system, all those in the 200s are of the secular variety.) These cantatas use text that is closer to an opera libretto; it tells a story. One of the most famous of the secular cantatas—the Coffee Cantata, BWV 211—is represented by one selection in today’s program. Here Bach took off his wig and poked fun at coffee-crazed Leipzigers.

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Texts and Translations

Cantata 140
Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?
Ich komme, dein Teil.
Ich warte mit brennendem Öle.
(Eröffne, Ich öffne) den Saal beide
Zum himmlischen Mahl

Komm, Jesu!
Komm, liebliche Seele!

(Soul) When com’st thou,
my Savior?
(Jesus) I’m coming, thy share.
(Soul) I’m waiting with my
burning oil.
(Soul, Jesus) Now open the hall
(I open the hall)
For heaven’s rich meal.
(Soul) Come, Jesus!
(Jesus) Come, O lovely soul!
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Cantata 31
Fürst des Lebens, starker Streiter,
Hochgelobter Gottessohn!
Hebet dich des Kreuzes Leiter
Auf den höchsten Ehrenthron?
Wird, was dich zuvor gebunden,
Nun dein Schmuck und Edelstein?
Müssen deine Purpurwunden
Deiner Klarheit Strahlen sein?

Prince of being, mighty warrior,
High-exalted Son of God!
Lifteth thee the cross’s ladder
To the highest honor’s throne?
Will what thee once held
in bondage
Now thy finest jewel be?
Must all these thy wounds
of purple
Of thy radiance be the beams?
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Cantata 115 Bete aber auch dabei
Mitten in dem Wachen!
Bitte bei der großen Schuld
Deinen Richter um Geduld,
Soll er dich von Sünden frei
Und gereinigt machen!

Pray though even now as well,
Even in thy waking!
Beg now in thy grievous guilt
That thy Judge with thee forbear,
That he thee from sin set free
And unspotted render.
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Cantata 123
Laß, o Welt, mich aus
In betrübter Einsamkeit!
Jesus, der ins Fleisch
Und mein Opfer
Bleibet bei mir allezeit.
Leave me, world, for thou dost
scorn me,
In my grievous loneliness!
Jesus, now in flesh appearing
And my sacrifice accepting,
Shall be with me all my days.
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Cantata 205
Angenehmer Zephyrus,
Dein von Bisam reicher Kuß
Und dein lauschend Kühlen
Soll auf meinen Höhen
Großer König Aeolus
Sage doch dem Zephyrus,
Daß sein bisamreicher Kuß
Und sein lauschend Kühlen
Soll auf meinen Höhen

O enchanting Zephyrus,
This thy musky-flavored kiss
And thy cooling spying
Shall upon my heights
be playing.
Great and good King Aeolus,
Say then, please, to Zephyrus
That his musky-flavored kiss
And his cooling spying
Shall upon my heights
be playing.
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Cantata 211
Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süße,
Lieblicher als tausend Küsse,
Milder als Muskatenwein.
Coffee, Coffee muß ich haben,
Und wenn jemand mich will laben,
Ach, so schenkt mir Coffee ein!

Ah! How sweet the coffee’s
taste is,
Sweeter than a thousand kisses,
Milder than sweet muscatel.
Coffee, coffee, I must have it,
And if someone wants to
treat me,
Ah, my cup with coffee fill!
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Cantata 126
Stürze zu Boden, schwülstige
Mache zunichte, was sie erdacht!
Laß sie den Abgrund plötzlich
Wehre dem Toben
feindlicher Macht,
Laß ihr Verlangen
nimmer gelingen!

Crash down in ruin,
arrogant bombast!
Hurl to destruction what
it conceives!
Let the abyss now quickly
devour them,
Fend off the raging of the
foe’s might,
Let their desires ne’er
find satisfaction.
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Cantata 120A
Leit, o Gott, durch deine Liebe,
Dieses neu verlobte Paar.
Mach an ihnen kräftig wahr,
Was dein Wort uns vorgeschrieben,
Daß du denen, die dich lieben,
Wohltun wollest immerdar.

Lead, O God, through thy
love’s kindness
This the new betrothed pair.
Make in them exceeding true
What thy word to us promised,
That thou to all who adore thee
Wouldst give favor evermore.
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Cantata 97
Hat er es denn beschlossen,
So will ich unverdrossen
An mein Verhängnis gehn!
Kein Unfall unter allen
Soll mir zu harte fallen,
Ich will ihn überstehn.

For if he hath decided,
Then will I uncomplaining
Unto my fate press on!
No mishap midst the many
Will seem to me too cruel,
I will them overcome.
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Cantata 68
Mein gläubiges Herze,
Frohlocke, sing, scherze,
Dein Jesus ist da!
Weg Jammer, weg Klagen,
Ich will euch nur sagen:
Mein Jesus ist nah.

My heart ever faithful,
Exulting, sing gladly,
Thy Jesus is here!
Hence sorrow! Hence grieving!
I will simply tell you:
My Jesus is near!
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The artists of the Bach Aria Group

Tara Helen O’Connor, flute, made her Carnegie Hall concerto debut in 1986 and her solo recital debut in Weill Recital Hall in 1992. She has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Orion String Quartet, Orpheus, and Bargemusic, and at music festivals such as Sante Fe and Spoleto USA. Ms O’Connor’s recordings include the complete Etudes for Solo Flutes by Isang Yun. She teaches at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music.

Daniel Phillips, violin, enjoys a versatile career as a chamber musician, soloist and teacher. He won the 1976 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and made New York recital debuts at the 92nd Street Y and at Alice Tully Hall. He has been a soloist with numerous orchestras and a regular chamber music festival participant. He also helped found the Orion String Quartet, which is quartet-in-residence at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He is professor of violin at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music.

Timothy Eddy, cellist, has been called “the warmest and most forceful kind of performer” by The New York Times and has distinguished himself as a concerto soloist, chamber musician and recording artist. He has received numerous competition awards and his appearances in duo recital with pianist Gilbert Kalish have been highly acclaimed. Mr Eddy has performed regularly with the Galimir Quartet and was a founding member of the Orion String Quartet. He has recorded widely and also teaches cello at the University of Stony Brook and the Mannes College of Music.

Beverly Hoch, soprano, has won world-wide praise for her range and expressivity. In recent years she has sung all the operatic colatura roles, including Zerbinetta, Gilda, Lak-me, Blondchen, Olympia, Rosina and Amina. She has performed frequently with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at festivals including Spoleto, Marlboro, Santa Fe, Newport, Aldeburgh and Aspen. Ms Hoch’s extensive recordings include a solo album of colatura arias with orchestra.

John Stephens, bass, has sung leading roles with numerous opera companies including the Houston Grand Opera, Washington Opera, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Cleveland Opera and the Glimmerglass Opera. He also has performed as a soloist with orchestras in St Louis, Atlanta, Kansas City and Washington. He studied at the University of Illinois and the Juilliard School of Music, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. He directs the voice and opera program at the University of Kansas.

Yehudi Wyner, keyboard artist, composer and conductor, has been harpsichordist and organist of The Bach Aria Group since 1968. He is professor of music at Brandeis University and was formerly chairman of the composition faculty at the Yale University School of Music. Mr Wyner also performs, teaches and coaches vocal and chamber music at Tanglewood, and he has been music director of several opera companies. He has received numerous awards including the Rome Prize and two Guggenheim fellowships.

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