J.S. Bach's Cantata 18 and the Tradition of the Litany
Music Building, Room 132, free
Reception to follow
Johann Sebastian Bach's pre-Leipzig cantatas exhibit a number of interesting compositional experiments that serve as a transition from the sacred concerto of the 17th century to the modern cantata we find in his Leipzig years. One of these highly experimental pieces is the cantata Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee BWV 18, composed around 1714. While the composition has only a single short aria, it revolves around an extensive recitative, juxtaposing sections of the soloists and quotations from the Lutheran litany.
A second unusual feature is an instrumental introduction, which is one of Bach's earliest attempts to emulate Vivaldi's concerto style. These two seemingly unrelated features appear in a new light if the cantata is analyzed on the background of the traditions of the litany. Both Bach's compositional procedures and the design of the libretto reflect (and rehearse) the use and the understanding of the litany in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Markus Rathey is Associate Professor of Music History at the Yale School of Music with joined appointments at the Institute of Sacred Music and the Yale Divinity School. He is Vice President of the Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship and serves on the editorial board of the Bach-Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach-Society.
After studying theology, musicology, and German literature in Münster (Germany) he received his PhD in Musicology in 1998 with a thesis about Bach’s predecessor in Mühlhausen Johann Rudolph Ahle. He taught at the Universities of Mainz and Leipzig and was a research affiliate at the Bach Archive in Leipzig. In recent years he worked as a lecturer and author of program texts with conductors like Sir Neville Mariner, Helmuth Rilling, and Simon Carrington.
Professor Rathey’s publications include books about Johann Rudolph Ahle, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and an edition of the music theoretical writings by Johann Georg Ahle, which just appeared in a second and revised edition after the first edition was sold out within only one year. His articles appeared in journals like 18th Century Music, Bach-Jahrbuch, Schütz-Jahrbuch, and the Riemenschneider Bach-Journal.
His work on Bach has recently focused on his early years as a composer, and on Bach’s chorale cantatas.