Sunday, April 05, 2009

Bach Pilgrimage

This afternoon I downloaded from the International Music Score Library Project the scores for the three cantatas in the concert on the wonderful Bach Pilgrimage DVD and have just listened to the first two cantatas. The first one on the dvd is
BWV 179 Siehu zu, daß deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei
See to it that thy fear of God be not hypocrisy
which is based on the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke chapter 18. When the self-righteous Pharisee prays he brags about what a great person he is and is really praying to himself. But the tax collector humbly asks God to be merciful to him, because he knows he is a sinner.
The anonymous librettist created a wonderful interpretation of Jesus' parable, aiming to remind us, in the words of Ecclesiasticus 1:28
Do not serve God with a double heart
which is the basis of the sensational opening fugue.

The tenor then sings a recitative and aria which tells us that
Today's Christianity is, alas, in a sorry state. Most Christians are puffed up Pharisees.
The following bass recitative tells us that a true Christian is someone who
is inwardly and outwardly the same.
Magdalena Kozena sings the next aria
BWV 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut
My heart is bathed in blood.
She is a superb dramatic performer and conveys the varied emotions of the text marvellously, from the deeply sorrowful opening recitative and aria to the joyful concluding recitative and aria
How joyful is my heart for God is reconciled with me
I'm looking forward to listening to the last cantata, after this short blogging break. Bach's music depicts the sense of the text superbly. I highly recommend this dvd, even if you do not yet know much about Bach. The rest of the recording tells the story of this pilgrimage around Germany, other parts of Europe and Britain, and finishing in New York. John Eliot Gardiner and his orchestra, chorus and guest soloists spent 2000 visiting places where Bach had first performed his music [which is only Germany], but also performing the cantatas on the day of the church calendar on which they were originally heard. [Occasionally this wasn't possible, due to the movable nature of the church calendar, which you will notice with the variety of tiems when Easter is celebrated, for example.]