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Sunday, August 01, 2004
  Cantata: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, 6. Aria (Duet): Mein Freund ist mein!
Johann Sebastian Bach
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Tracks 10-11

Listeners like what listeners know. It seems that the climax of a piece of music is generally the moment when the listener has learned the vocabulary of the piece and is ready for a change of some sort. The change can be as dramatic as smashing one's guitar on the stage or as subtle as holding a single pitch too long. However it is accomplished, the need for a climax and the physics of how to get there do not seem to have changed much over time.

Bach has administered a stronger equality among the musicians for this climactic aria. For example, reminiscent of Corelli's trio sonata that appears early on this disk, the continuo has more to say. Yet the sound of this movement is familiar. The structure of this piece is similar to the third movement and the tune is much like the fourth. This sixth movement becomes the climax of the cantata because it draws upon the listener's familiarity with the material and brings the performers closer together than they have been before. It is not incidental that this is the first movement of the piece to have a repeat.

What I like about this lovely da capo aria is the oneness of the quasi-canonic writing. That is, a few bars into track 11 each instrument and voice is assigned scale fragments. Because each part is unique and equal to the other three, the aggregate is more texture than melody. Bach knew there is more to listen to than tunes.

Read also about Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Symphony No. 2 from Robert Gable, Jessica Duchen confronting Fauré, Kyle Gann's thoughts on the discipline of art criticism, and Helen Radice's rememberance of John Mayer.
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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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