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Duets in Bach's Vocal Works

Double Your Pleasure…

Harry J. Steinman wrote (November 21, 2000):
Not sure if this thread belongs on the Cantata List as it is "off-topic" (as the topic is the cantata of the week) or here on the Recordings List...maybe I'll post it in both places as I don't believe that everyone participates in both lists!

The other day I was placing some of my favorite duets onto my trusty MP3 player as accompaniment to my daily exercise. Those favorites include "Komm, Mein Jesu" from BWV 21; "Erwunschtes Freudenlicht" from BWV 184; and my Very Favorite, "Den Tod niemnand zwingen kunnt" from BWV 4. Seems that I'm a big fan of duets. Don't ask me why, they ring my chimes.

Since I have built my Bach collection largely from the suggestions of the folks on these Lists, I'd like to start a thread that I believe will be enjoyable (and I have an ulterior motive: To collect recommendations for future acquisitions!)

So, here it is: Considering all of the vocal works (not just cantatas) what are your favorite duets? Please mention the best recordings of these! And if you're so inclined, your favorite arias for SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass)...and your favorite choruses!

I know it's a big question...but I bet there's a lot of good responses out there!

Jim Morrison wrote (November 21, 2000):
[To Harry J. Steinman] Great topic.

I love the Bach duets as well.

Here is my favorite.

The very joyous and playful Italian-esqe soprano-alto duet from Cantata BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele.

This may be the most happy music I've ever heard from Bach's pen and I can't recommend it highly enough. Seriously, list members, I don't think any Bach collection should be without this duet.

I have two different versions, both of which I love, though they take somewhat different approaches to the duet

One recording, made in 1954, under the direction of Felix Prohaska is a bit "thick" sounding, as are many Bach recordings from that era. The organ takes a prominent role in this recording. Soloists are excellant, though I can't recall their names.

The other recording I have, directed by Joshua Rifkin is more nimble-footed and lighter-textured and places much more emphasis on the string accompaniment and vastly lowers the part of the organ when compared with Prohaska. Rifkin, of course, is the famous proponent of the one player per part approach to Bach's music.

Rush out and get either recording.

Thanks for the great topic Harry. Keep us posted.

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (November 21, 2000):
[To Harry J. Steinman] One of my favorites is a trio from the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). I believe vocal trios are rare in Bach, but this one is really nice, for soprano, alto and tenor. I can't remember its name (it's at home)--does anyone know the one I'm talking about?

Favorite soprano arias: Mein glaubiges Herze (Cantata BWV 68), and Nur ein Wink (?) (Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), part 6, I believe). Of late I have fallen in love with the aria Tief gebuckt und voller Reue - - I'm not sure from which cantata it is. It simply brings me to tears, and I don't even understand what it's about! Is it happy? Is it sad? I don't care to find out!

For tenors: again, it's from the Christmas Oratorio- - the tune that starts out with the opening phrase of the little d minor minuet from the Anna Magdalena Bach book.

Bass: Mache dich mein Herze rein, from the Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

Galina Kolomietz wrote (November 22, 2000):
Harry J. Steinman wrote:
< So, here it is: Considering all of the vocal works (not just cantatas) what are your favorite duets? Please mention the best recordings of these! And if you're so inclined, your favorite arias for SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass)...and your favorite choruses! >
*** My Bach collection is fairly limited, as is my general familiarity with Bach (still catching up), but here's my two cents:

1) Et misericordia (AT) from Magnificat (in D maj.) (BWV 243). I have four recordings of Magnificat (including one in E) and my favorite version of this duet is on the Herreweghe (Crook and Lesne).
2) Christe Eleison (SS) from the B-minor Mass (BWV 232). My favorite version of this duet is on the Max, Capriccio 60 033-2 (Veronika Winter and Johanna Koslowsky). One B-Minor Mass to avoid is the Christophers - awful.

Can't think of any, other than Ach wenn wird die Zeit erscheinen from the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), Zedern mussen von den Winden from BWV 150, and Ist Gott versohnt und Unser Freund from BWV 122. From the standpoint of solo voices (which is the only thing I usually remember in my ignorance), I don't know of a really good version of Ach wenn wird. Of the three recordings I have, two (Christophers and
Concerto Köln) have the tenors I like (Padmore and Prégardien), but I don't like the altos (Wyn-Rogers and Groop). The third (Jacobs) has a good alto (Scholl) but I don't like the tenor (Gura). I'm not too crazy about the sopranos in all of them. I have only one version of BWV 150 (Leusink on BC). Since I have nothing to compare it with, it actually sounds pretty good. In contrast, BWV 122 is much better on the Herreweghe than on the Leusink (imho).

Soprano solo:
Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe from BWV 29. I only have one version of this cantata, but I can't imagine anybody doing a better job of this aria than Debbie
York on the version I have (Herreweghe).

Alto solo:
Erbarme dich from St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). I have five recordings of SMP (Herreweghe, Max, McCreesh, Suzuki & Brüggen) and I have to say that Lena Suzanne Norin on the Max is probably the best in this aria. Scholl (on the Herreweghe) is also good, of course. Robin Blaze I like on the McCreesh but not so much on the Suzuki. I also like Erbarme dich on Dan Taylor's CD "Bach arias & oboe d'amore."

Tenor solo:
1) Die Ewigkeit saphirnes Haus from Die Trauerode BWV 198. I have three versions (Herreweghe, Thomas and Koopman). I'm not a big fan of Koopman, but he's got Paul Agnew -I think Agnew is perfect in this aria (much better, imho, than Herreweghe's Crook).
2) Quoniam from BWV 236. I have two of these: The Purcell Quartet (One-voice-per-part) and Dresdner Kreuzchor/Martin Flamig (on the BC Bach edition). I prefer the Purcell Quartet. I wanted to listen to the Herreweghe version of this mass but couldn't find it.

Bass solo:
Ich habe genung, Peter Kooy on the Herreweghe.

Harry J, Steinman wrote (November 22, 2000):
[To Galina Kolomietz] Gee, Galina...for someone who's "Bach collection is fairly limited" you certainly have a good selection! Thanks for the recommendations!

Andrew Oliver wrote (November 23, 2000):
One duet which you really ought not to miss is the second movement of BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele. This is superb. I have three versions of this. The Teldec version (Harnoncourt) involves buying a box of 15 CDs. The Brilliant Classics one (Leusink) is much cheaper, but you might have difficulty getting it over there. The other one I have is on a double CD set recorded by Rifkin, produced by Decca on the L'Oiseau-Lyre label, 455 706-2. This is very good.

Jane Newble wrote (November 23, 2000):
[To Andrew Oliver] The best one I know of this is Rilling. It is an experience not to be missed!

Andrew Oliver wrote (November 25, 2000):
[To Harry J. Steinman] Harry, in your quest for duets, have you remembered that marvellous one in BWV 186? We discussed this in August, but I don't recall a contribution from you, so perhaps you waway. The general consensus of opinion was that, as far as the duet is concerned, the best recording is Suzuki's, the singers being Robin Blaze and Miah Persson. The reference for this is BIS-CD-951.


Tenor-Bass duets

Jason Marmaras wrote (April 17, 2004):
Does anyone know in which Cantatas one can find tenor-bass duetti? (I know about the recitativo~duetto in BWV 11, and about the 'easy' "Ich lasse dich nicht", BWV 157)

Thanks in advance,

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Jason Marmaras] As always, you can find this info at the useful Walter F. Bischof website. See:

Alas, the list includes only the arias, not the recitatives.

Jason Marmaras wrote (April 17, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] Many thanks, Aryeh.


List of cantata movements by voice

Andrew Black wrote (August 12, 2006):
Some time in the past I came across a list of duet items within Bach cantatas (ists of S+A S+T S+B etc). I can't find the list anywhere.

It's probably going tobe obvious....

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 12, 2006):
Andrew Black asked:
"Some time in the past I came across a list of duet items within Bach cantatas (ists of S+A S+T S+B etc). I can't find the list anywhere."
If this your first message to the BCML, then welcome aboard!

In order to get answers to your query, you are invited to use the Search Works/Movements facility of the BCW:

To get Duets with Tenor & Bass, simply insert
duet t b
into the search box.
And so on..

A link to this facility is included in the Navigation Bar of each page of the BCW.

Andrew Black wrote (August 20, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< To get Duets with Tenor & Bass, simply insert
duet t b
nto the search box.
And so on.. >

Thanks. The list I was looking for is at:

I found it by doing the search you suggested, finding a couple of example titles and sticking those into google.


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Last update: żAugust 21, 2006 ż11:12:07