Recorded on 08/12/2008, uploaded on 01/18/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Johann Sebastian Bach composed over 200 cantatas during his
career and they contain some of his most famous and enduring music. Most were
written to fulfill the requirements of the Leipzig Churches' demand for about
58 different cantatas each year.
Wachet auf, ruft uns
die Stimme, also known as Sleepers
Awake, is based on the Lutheran chorale of the same name by Philipp
Nicolai. It is based on the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13
which was to be read on the 27th Sunday after Trinity according to
the Lutheran lectionary of Bach's time. However, this Sunday only occurred when
Easter fell early in the year and because of this the cantata was less often
performed than others.
The chorale appears in three of the seven movements in the
cantata. The first movement is a fantasia
based on the chorale's first verse. The fourth movement uses the second verse
of the chorale and is set in a trio sonata style for tenors, oboe da caccia and
continuo. The last movement sets the final verse of the chorale in a four-part
harmonization. Each of these settings of the chorale melody is separated from
each other by a recitative-aria pair. In each case, the arias are duets for
soprano and bass.
Probably the most well-known portion of this cantata is the
fourth movement tenor chorale. Bach later transcribed this movement, along with
five others from different cantatas, for the organ and published them as part
of his Sechs Chorale von verschiedener Art ("Six Chorales of Various
Kinds"), better known as the Schübler
Chorales. It has since been transcribed by others for the piano as well as
various chamber ensembles. Joseph DuBose
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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