Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4
Sun, 2021-Apr-04 11:57 UTC
Length - 4:07
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Christ lag in Todes Banden (also spelled Todesbanden; "Christ lay in death's bonds" or "Christ lay in the snares of death"), BWV 4, is a cantata for Easter by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, one of his earliest church cantatas. It is agreed to be an early work partly for stylistic reasons and partly because there is evidence that it was probably written for a performance in 1707. Bach went on to complete many other works in the same genre, contributing complete cantata cycles for all occasions of the liturgical year. John Eliot Gardiner describes it as Bach's "first-known attempt at painting narrative in music". Christ lag in Todes Banden is a chorale cantata, a style in which both text and music are based on a hymn. In this instance, the source was Martin Luther's hymn of the same name, the main hymn for Easter in the Lutheran church. The composition is based on the seven stanzas of the hymn and its tune, which was derived from Medieval models. Bach used the unchanged words of a stanza of the chorale in each of the seven vocal movements, in the format of chorale variations per omnes versus (for all stanzas), and he used its tune as a cantus firmus. After an opening sinfonia, the variations are arranged symmetrically: chorus–duet–solo–chorus–solo–duet–chorus, with the focus on the central fourth stanza about the battle between Life and Death. All movements are in E minor, and Bach achieves variety and intensifies the meaning of the text through many musical forms and techniques.
Christ lag in Todes Banden is Bach's first cantata for Easter – in fact, his only extant original composition for the first day of the feast – and his earliest surviving chorale cantata. It was related to his application for a post at a Lutheran church at Mühlhausen. He later twice performed it as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, beginning in 1724 when he first celebrated Easter there. Only this second version survives. It is scored for four vocal parts and a Baroque instrumental ensemble with two components, an instrumental "choir" of cornetto and three trombones doubling the choral voices (only in the 2nd Leipzig performance in 1725 were these used), and a string section of two violins, two violas, and continuo. While this scoring reflects the resources at Bach's disposal (the cornetto and brass players would have been available because of the city band tradition in Leipzig), it was old-fashioned and exemplifies a 17th-century Choralkonzert (chorale concerto) style; the lost scoring of the earlier performances was perhaps similar.
Gardiner calls Bach's setting of Luther's hymn "a bold, innovative piece of musical drama", and observes "his total identification with the spirit and letter of Luther's fiery, dramatic hymn".
This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 11:57 UTC on Sunday, 4 April 2021.
For the full current version of the article, see Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 on Wikipedia.
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