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Bach's Cantatas

Bach's Cantatas
April 06, 2011, 07:24:57 AM
Johann Sebastian Bach lost both of his parents when he was nine and watched ten of his children die young. He was, in other words, well acquainted with death, and may have been uncommonly sensitive to the emotional chaos that it engenders. The musicologist Gerd Rienäcker has written that Bach possessed a “consciousness of catastrophe”—a feeling for the suddenness and arbitrariness with which suffering descends on unsuspecting souls. The texts of Bach’s church cantatas—I recently finished listening to all two hundred of them, courtesy of John Eliot Gardiner’s recorded survey—indicate that the life of man is like a rising and vanishing mist; that we live with one foot in the grave; and that those who sit among us like gods will be forgotten. The world is said to be like a hospital in which countless people, even infants in cradles, lie down in sickness. The words “Kyrie eleison”—“Lord, have mercy”—have been set to music thousands of times, but in the first bars of the Mass in B Minor, Bach’s valediction, they become a peculiarly visceral cry, a collective plea for grace


I usually despise the New Yorker's music articles, but this was fairly decent. JS's cantata cycle is daunting, and it doesn't help that there are 6 different recorded collections.

Re: Bach's Cantatas
April 06, 2011, 12:08:19 PM
I saw the B-minor mass at the Nashville symphony a year or two ago.

It is one of those pieces of music that everyone should hear live at least once.

Re: Bach's Cantatas
April 19, 2011, 07:41:35 PM
Alex Ross is good writer. I don't like how he tends to ignore/disparage avant-garde composers like Carter in favor of less interesting guys like Adams, but this bias shouldn't be all too problematic around here, right? His first book, "The Rest is Noise" is a great overview of 20th century classical music if you keep in mind said bias.

Re: Bach's Cantatas
May 10, 2011, 01:08:22 PM

They're doing all of Bach's Cantatas, I believe, and have many already.