J.S. Bach: Cantata 198, "Trauerode" ("Funeral Ode") mvt. 1 and 4
I had something different planned for today, but a number of people told me they enjoyed the Bach cantata from last Friday, so I thought I'd share another one. This is the complete opposite: that was joyful and religious, and this is mournful and relatively secular. It is so beautiful, I always say I want it performed at my funeral!
The funeral for which it was actually written was that of the Electress of Saxony (a political position). She was something of a Lutheran heroine, because when her husband, Augustus the Strong, converted to Catholicism for political reasons she steadfastly remained a Lutheran.
The fourth movement (it is less than one minute long) is special because it is one of the extremely rare occasions in Bach's music which uses pizzicato, or plucking the strings, in the violins and violas. But those few times he does use this effect are positively bone-chilling! When I listen to the nervous plucking in the upper strings and the earthshaking pulses in the lower strings I get goosebumps every time.
Texts from bach-cantatas.com:
Laß, Fürstin, lass noch einen Strahl
Let, Princess, let one more ray
Aus Salems Sterngewölben schießen.
Shoot from Salem's starry vaults.
Und sieh, mit wieviel Tränengüssen
And see, with how many floods of tears
Umringen wir dein Ehrenmal.
we surround your memorial.
Der Glocken bebendes Getön
The bells' reverberating sound
Soll unsrer trüben Seelen Schrecken
shall awaken dread in our troubled souls
Durch ihr geschwungnes Erze wecken
with its vibrating bronze
Und uns durch Mark und Adern gehn.
And go through our marrow and veins.
O, könnte nur dies bange Klingen,
Oh if only this fearful sound
Davon das Ohr uns täglich gellt,
that resounds each day in our ears
Der ganzen Europäerwelt
could give to all of Europe
Ein Zeugnis unsres Jammers bringen!
A witness of our sorrow!
Live performance of full cantata, mvt. 4 at 11:09-12:00
Mvt. 4 only
In May 2017 I challenged my students to practice every day for 30 days in a row. In addition, I asked them to listen to 30 bite-sized musical selections I emailed daily. I collected my picks in this blog for posterity. So these are works I find particularly fun, interesting, or important, including a handful by composers who were born or who died in May. Please enjoy!