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The four cantatas gathered here were all composed for specific events such as funerals and weddings. Like all the sacred cantatas, they contain biblical references and include chorales, but Bach’s sacred occasional pieces are independent works and did not form part of his cantata cycles for the Sundays and feast days of the church year. This makes it to some extent difficult to place the individual works in context: for instance two of cantatas included here were intended for wedding ceremonies, and one for a funeral, but we do not know the circumstances regarding the fourth piece, Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 192. Similarly, we do know the identity of the person whose death was mourned to the music of Ich lasse dich nicht… BWV 157, but the names of the couples whose weddings were accompanied by BWV 195 and BWV 120a respectively are unknown. Nevertheless the music speaks for itself – BWV 195 suitably joyous with timpani and trumpets, and BWV 157 expressing a mellowness and quiet confidence in eternal life through its exquisite chamber-musical combination of solo instruments: transverse flute, oboe d’amore and viola d’amore. As elsewhere in his production, Bach would at times reuse material from other compositions, and a striking example is the Sinfonia in BWV 120a, a reworking for organ solo and orchestra of the famous prelude from the E major violin partita. With another four volumes yet to come, the cycle of cantatas initiated by Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan in 1995 is nearing completion, without any signs of flagging, as witness the warm welcome extended to Volume 50 by reviewers remarking upon the consistently high quality of both interpretations and performances throughout the series.
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