Music Web International: “A pleasing sequel to the first volume of Bach’s secular cantatas, with extremely able soloists and instrumentalists who are capable of great delicacy of phrasing and who are a joy to listen to.”
Compared with J.S. Bach’s production of church music his secular vocal works occupy a modest place in his output: today we know of the existence of some fifty secular cantatas, but only about half of these have survived in performable condition. They were occasional pieces, tailored especially to the situation that engendered them. Unlike the church cantatas they could therefore not be performed again in unaltered form, and were thus of little practical interest for Bach’s heirs. The earliest surviving secular cantata is the ‘Hunt’ Cantata, composed in 1713 in Weimar for the birthday of Duke Christian of Sachsen-Weißenfels. The Duke was a passionate huntsman and Bach’s work was performed during a birthday banquet held at the Prince’s hunting lodge. The libretto includes a modest dramatic plot in which four divinities from ancient mythology appear, and to which Bach’s music adds variety and colour through the use, in various movements, of two hunting horns, a trio of oboes and a pair of recorders. Bach must have valued the work highly: he adjusted it at least twice for performances in honour of other people, and also used ‘parody’ versions of various movements in sacred cantatas. Intended for the 1719 New Year’s celebrations in Köthen, Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht would also be recycled by Bach, who five years later transformed it into a cantata for Easter Sunday. Of a more philosophical cast than its companion piece, the cantata is set as a dialogue between Time (tenor) and Divine Providence (alto), who in the final movement are joined by a chorus wishing ‘glückseligen Zeiten’ (‘joyous times’) to the princely house of Anhalt-Köthen. Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki have previously recorded one disc of secular cantatas (BIS-CD-1411), with the Coffee Cantata and the wedding cantata O Holder Tag, Erwünschte Zeit. With this second volume, the team now picks up the thread of this series which runs parallel to the traversal of the church cantatas.