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Sunday, July 25, 2004
  Cantata: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, 2. Tenor Recitative: Er kommt
Johann Sebastian Bach
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Track 6

There are times when Bach sounds a little like the blues. For instance, hergegangen, the last word of this recitative, moves down to the final note in a way that emphasizes the flat third scale degree. But, alas, our singer slips in an unauthorized second scale degree making it sound much more white than it should. I am exaggerating, I know, but our singer does seem to have an aversion to ending a phrase on a descending third. Four times in this short track he adds a pitch to avoid this small leap. To my ears, the pitches Bach wrote are more interesting.

The opening words, Er kommt, er kommt, are particularly striking because Bach, listening to future German music, set them to the tune of Brahms’ fourth symphony. Unlike the orchestral version, our singer fills these notes with the anxiety of those waiting. He appropriately and frenetically works his way up to the highest note for Sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe.

What I like about this tenor break is the way the word Dort sticks out, pointing "over there!" Even though the highest note of the tune was spent early setting the word Höhe, Bach is able to achieve a climax on Dort by disrupting the flow.

Read also Jessica Duchen’s complaint about music with moderators.
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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