There are three cantatas for this Sunday.
Readings for the Sunday after Christmas:
Galatians 4:1–7, Through Christ we are free from the law
Luke 2:33–40, Simeon and Anna with Mary in the temple
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- Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152, 30 December 1714
Aria (bass): Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn
Recitative (bass): Der Heiland ist gesetzt
Aria (soprano): Stein, der über alle Schätze
Recitative (bass): Es ärgre sich die kluge Welt
Duet (soprano, bass): Wie soll ich dich, Liebster der Seelen, umfassen?
("Step upon the path of faith") Dialogue cantata composed in Weimar in 1714 on a text by Salomo Franck. It is one of Bach's early cantatas; Bach was employed at the Weimar Court from 1707 to 1717 and in 1714 he had been promoted from violinist to concertmaster, with the obligation to compose a cantata on a monthly basis. The chamber work features an exotic orchestration, including viola d’amore (an instrument with sympathetically resonating strings), viola da gamba, recorder and oboe d’amore. The gospel text for this Sunday is about the Presentation in the Temple (which is also central to the feast of Mary Purification on February 2), but Franck was inspired by other passages in the Bible that characterize the Messiah as a stone spurned by the builders; God, however, makes it into the corner stone. While playing with the symbolism that God laid "the stone of foundation" and that Jesus is a "stone beyond all gems," the text is an allegorical dialogue between Jesus and the Soul about faith as the Rock of the Ages which never fails, and concludes with a rejection of the world. The cantata starts with an attractive sinfonia which has some resemblance to Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A Major for organ. The first aria is for the bass as Vox Christi, who invites the Soul to "step upon the path of faith," accompanied by purposeful music. In the ensuing recitative the bass introduces the symbol of the corner stone, which is taken up in the soprano aria, featuring an elegant accompaniment from the recorder and viola d'amore. The final duet (there is no chorale) unites Jesus and the Soul (and the upper instruments in unisono). This cantata is the earliest extant example of a dialogue. Bach chose not to re-use this cantata in Leizig, perhaps because it was too much a chamber work and difficult to alter considering its instrumentation.
- Das neugeborne Kindelein, BWV 122, 31 December 1724
Chorale: Das neugeborne Kindelein
Aria (bass): O Menschen, die ihr täglich sündigt
Recitative (soprano): Die Engel, welche sich zuvor
Aria (soprano, alto, tenor): Ist Gott versöhnt und unser Freund
Recitative (bass): Dies ist ein Tag, den selbst der Herr gemacht
Chorale: Es bringt das rechte Jubeljahr
("The new-born infant child") Chorale cantata from Bach's second Leipzig year, based on a hymn by Cyriakus Schneegass (1597) which celebrates the newborn Jesus (In the Middle Ages, the birth of Jesus was also seen as the beginning of the new year). The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia with a long opening and closing ritornello enclosing a chorale theme with four entries and lengthy interspersed episodes. It is, however, rather muted and the long and chromatic bass aria which follows mostly dwells on "men who daily sin" and therefore face damnation. The vocal line here has been called "tortuous and chromatically convoluted." Apparently, it is time again for Lutheran fire and brimstone! Only accompanied by the continuo, this is the longest movement of the cantata. In the next recitative the chorale melody is played by three recorders, and in the trio for soprano, alto and tenor, it is sung by the alto as cantus firmus. After a bass recitative which dwells on the joyful message of Christmas, the cantata closes with the usual plain harmonization of the chorale.
Video: Julian Wachner
- Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende, BWV 28, 30 December 1725
Aria (soprano): Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende
Chorale: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
Recitative and arioso (bass): So spricht der Herr
Recitative (tenor): Gott ist ein Quell
Duet aria (alto and tenor): Gott hat uns im heurigen Jahre gesegnet
Chorale: All solch dein Güt wir preisen
("Praise God! The year now draws to a close") Part of Bach's third Leipzig cycle. The Sunday after Christmas is the last Sunday of the year and the principal topic of this cantata is the passing of the old year and coming of the new year, without referring to the readings for the day. The cantata text is by Erdmann Neumeister. The virtuosic and melismatic opening soprano aria exhorts us to recall God's gifts in the previous year and bring thanks. That thanks is then represented (and expanded from the individual to the collective) by Johann Gramann's hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren," here in rare second position for a chorale. This movement (in its combined sobriety and complexity the most interesting part of this short cantata) is in motet style; motets were traditionally part of Christmas music in Germany. The theme of God's generosity is continued in the arioso for bass (quoting Jeremiah 32:41) and the tenor recitative. The duet for alto and tenor then sums up the themes of gratitude. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale harmonization, "Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen," of unknown authorship.