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JS Bach
Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid I, BWV 3 (Ah God, what deep affliction I);
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199 (My heart is bathed in blood);
Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei, BWV 179 (See to it that thy fear of God be not hypocrisy)

Iain Ledingham director
Margaret Faultless leader
Performed on historical instruments

Christina Gansch and Eve Daniell soprano
Anna Harvey mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Scott tenor
Lancelot Nomura bass

‘Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid’ BWV 3 was written for the Second Sunday after Epiphany on 14th January 1725. Part of Bach’s chorale cantata cycle, it is based on Martin Moller’s eighteen-verse hymn of 1587, itself a reworking of the ancient Latin hymn ‘Jesu dulcis memoria’. In the expansive opening movement the chorale melody appears in the bass, forming a foundation for Bach’s freely-composed, expressive elegy in the upper voices and the orchestra. The cantata’s second movement is one of Bach’s most elegant musical homilies: an arioso in which each line of the chorale is followed by a recitative commentary, as dramatic as it is erudite.

During February 1724 Bach must have been preparing the materials for the St John Passion in readiness for its first performance on Good Friday. Indirect evidence for this conjecture comes from the relative brevity of his cantatas from the period immediately before the start of Lent. ‘Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin’ BWV 144, written for Septuagesima on 6th February 1724, is in this respect typical — pithy and concentrated. The laconic statement of its opening text is set conservatively as a motet-like fugue, without independent instrumental lines, but with the rhetorical power of the turba choruses from the crucifixion narrative. The sprinkling of chorales throughout the cantata is another unusual feature that looks forward to the forthcoming Passion.

‘Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht’ BWV 179 is a terrifying musical sermon against hypocrisy. Composed for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, 8th August in 1723, just a couple of months into Bach’s tenure at St Thomas’s, its text graphically paints the everlasting punishment that awaits the hypocrite. The opening chorus is a remarkable compendium of contrapuntal devices, its focus on inversions and retrogrades presumably being symbolic of the perverted two-facedness characteristic of the sin of the day. The cantata’s expressive highlight is a beautiful aria with imploring melodies illustrating the text ‘Dearest God, have mercy’. Bach was evidently pleased with this cantata; he re-used three of its movements in his Lutheran masses.

Please note change to previously advertised programme.

Tickets £13 (concessions £10), season discounts available,
on sale online at www.ram.ac.uk/events now,
by telephone on 020 7873 7300 (10.00am-12noon and 2.00-4.00pm).

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Each cantata concert begins at midday and lasts around one hour. The Academy’s restaurant will be open for light refreshments from 10.30am until the start of each concert.

You can download a PDF of the 2014 series here.