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Cantata No.195 Dem Gerechten muss das Licht
Cantata No.196  Der Herr denket an uns
Cantata No.197 Gott ist unsre Zuversicht
Shihomi Inoue-Heller, Doris Soffel, Costanza Cuccaro (sopranos)
Elisabeth Graf, Mechthild Georg (altos)
Oly Pfaff, Aldo Baldin (tenors)
Andreas Schmidt, Niklaus Tüller, Philippe Huttenlocher (basses)
Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Württembergisches Kammerorchester/Helmuth Rilling
Recorded 1983/76/84 respectively
HÄNSSLER EDITION VOL. 59 CD 92059 [58.31] Edition Bachakademie

The three cantatas featured here were written in 1737, ?1708 and c.1742 and all for weddings but to sacred texts. Bach's contract in Leipzig made provision for extra fees payable over and above his fixed salary for what were termed Accidentien, what we would nowadays term "incidentals", effectively weddings and funerals, and on occasion these could average 15% extra per year. As he bitterly complained to a friend, 'If there were somewhat more dead bodies than usual the accidentia would rise in proportion. But on the other hand if there was a healthy Lufft [climate] the numbers would drop'. Couples would even try and get permission from the Elector to wed outside the town's boundaries thus incurring cheaper charges for the music performed at the ceremony. This exercised Bach to write many a stiff letter of complaint to his employer. His wedding pieces, known as occasional works in music, often used previously existing material with the amount of work he put into the composition, depending upon how well (if at all) he knew the couple, or upon the size of the fee he was getting. Their length also varied - on this disc none of the three is a long work but BWV 196 is half the length (12.39) of BWV 197 (26.32).

There is much charming music in all three cantatas, BWV 196 consistently so in its string accompaniments throughout. There is also much word-painting in the way Bach uses the instruments themselves (such as pairs of flutes to represent the wedded couple, pastoral dances anticipating the post-nuptial wedding feast) and, in BWV 197 a halfway division in the work after which the remaining numbers are grouped as 'post copulationen', fairly suggestively too in the music. As to the performances on this disc in the Rilling series of all Bach's cantatas, BWV 195 is decidedly weaker in vocal (not choral or instrumental) standard than the other two, the main culprits being the soprano and alto soloists. Otherwise Rilling's trumpeters and wind players, as well as his chorus, are singled out for special praise. 

 Christopher Fifield



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