Construction of the Cantata is exceptional in details and in formal idea. Bach has retained strophic form of Luther’s choral. He set the seven choral verses as seven parts of cantata, and the whole cycle is preceded by Sinfonia – short, 16 bars orchestral introduction. Consecutive verses has been set as the cycle of variations on main theme. Bach and giving every versus its own form and character corresponding with the text. At the end of every versus Bach placed Halleluyah passage according to Luther’s chant. Composing this cantata Johann Sebastian Bach used variational form basing on theme of Martin Luter’s chorale for Easter.
The melody has in fact much longer history. In oldest known version it is wide recognized sequenze for Easter Sunday Catholic liturgy Victimae paschali laudes and is mostly attributed to monk, poet and composer Wipo of Burgundy, but sometimes also to other authors, Notker Balbulus, Adam of St. Victor and even king of France, Robert II. Martin Luter modifying this popular melody wrote his own choral in seven verses. This chant was adopted by Johann Walter ans in 1524 published in Wittembergish Geistlich Gesangbuch. Many Reformations composers wrote artistic versions of this Easter choral. Best known are cantatas by Johann Herman Schein, Andreas Hammerschmidt, Johann Pachelbel and Johann Sebastian Bach. Choral preludes to Christ lag in Todesbanden were almost mandatory.
|J. S. Bach – Cantates BWV 4 & 134 – Hans Joachim Rotzsch|
Among many Bach’s cantata recordings these personally connected to the places and memorabilia of Johann Sebastian Bach look more reliably. The 1981 recording was made by East Germany label Eterna Edition in cooperation with Ariola Eurodisc and is straingtforwardly linked with great history of music. Cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden was most probably composed in 1707 and later in Leipzig Bach copied voices for performance in Leipzig in 1724. This performance was repeated in 1725. On opposite side of the album publisher placed Cantate for third day of Easter Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß BWV 134. This cantata was written for Thomanerchor and performed in Leipzig in 1924.
Recorded in Studio-Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche in 1981 performance was based on musicians form Lepizig, Neues Bachisches Collegium musicum zu Leipzig (selected musicians of famous Gewandhausorchester) and Thomanerchor Leipzig. This performance was conducted by Hans-Joachim Rotzsch, in 1972-1991 fifteenth chormaster on the post of Thomaskantor after Johann Sebastian Bach. In performance of Cantata Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß BWV 134 participated vocalists Ortrun Wenkel – alto and Peter Schreier – tenor, these times best voices of the country, though not from Leipzig.