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Cantata BWV 112
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of September 12, 2010 (3rd round)

David D. Jones wrote (September 13, 2010):
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt

Today's cantata, and the last cantata in what I call the "Shepherd Cycle" is "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt". Particulars of composition and scoring are easily obtainable on our website. As you all know, I am partial to
Gardiner [5], and he makes the most of this tender, luminous cantata with his flowing tempos, expertly drilled choir and impeccable soloists; a standout performance is William Towers's "Zum reinen Wasser" (Mvt. 2). I first became familiar with this particular aria through a recording done by the magisterial contralto Marian Anderson [M-1]. In her performance, there was a slight nod to authenticity with one of the first recorded oboe d' amore solos I remember. We've come a long way since the 50s as far as Bach is concerned, and so Gardiner stands on much firmer, and musically richer, ground stylistically. Towers's clear, pure alto soars through the elegiac, serenely contented lines of Bach's music to stunning effect. Here are some of Gardiner's thoughts on this Sunday's cantata:

Bach had something quite different in mind when he composed the third cantata for this Sunday, BWV 112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, in 1731. A late addition to his chorale-cantata cycle of 1724/5, it features all five strophes of a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 23 this time by Wolfgang Meuslin, but to the same hymn-tune by Nikolaus Decius ('Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr') used in the two earlier works. It gives a fresh twist to the stock-in-trade of German pastoral music adapted for church use: characteristically soothing and peaceful in mood, as with the two earlier cantatas - manifestations of solace, or gestures that transform death into a welcome release from the pains of living. The opening chorale fantasy is a masterpiece of compression. The presence of two horns, both crooked in G, one stratospherically high (and given no moment to breathe), the other given arresting reiterated three-note calls, reveals a much more regal portrait of the good shepherd than we have previously met. What Bach has done here is to combine several quasi-independent elements into one astonishing, polychromatic whole. To the calm ascent of the soprano hymn-tune he has added a burnished sheen (the first horn), serenity fused with majesty, as it were. The counter-subject (first violins and first oboes d'amore) is vigorous and mouvementé, representing gambolling lambs 15 headed pasture-wards, or a busy crowd on the move, or perhaps both. Apart from this arresting contrast (and there are several others including those between the successive, imitative voice entries underpinning the soprano/horn melody), is the irregular structural mosaic of prelude, strophes, intermezzo etc. in the following pattern of bars:
11 : 5 : 1 : 5 : 9 : 5 : 1 : 5 : 1 : 5 : 2 : 5 : 3 : 5 : 10 = 73
Was he reproducing some arcane numerological template here - and if so, what does it signify?


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 112: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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