Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Cantata BWV 1: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (25 March 1725)
1. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (Chorus)
2. Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn (Recitative: T) 09:36
3. Erfüllet, ihr himmlischen göttlichen Flammen (Aria: S) 10:33
4. Ein irdscher Glanz, ein leiblich Licht (Recitative: B) 15:43
5. Unser Mund und Ton der Saiten (Aria: T) 16:42
6. Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh (Chorale) 24:04
Boy Soprano: Soloist of the Wiener Sängerknaben
Tenor: Kurt Equiluz
Bass: Max van Egmond
Performed by the Wiener Sängerknaben & Chorus Viennensis (Chorus Master: Hans Gillesberger), and Concentus Musicus Wien under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Recorded by Teldec in 1970.
“Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How brightly gleams the morning star) (BWV 1), composed for the Festival of the Annunciation (25th March) 1725, is the last chorale of the Year II cycle, since texts in the customary form follow from Easter onward. Bach’s unknown librettist has retained the outer verses, 1 and 7, of Philipp Nikolai’s well-known hymn (1599) in their original wording, but rewritten the inner verses as recitatives and arias. Nikolai’s hymn is only loosely connected with the Gospel reading for the day, the story of the Annunciation (Luke 1, 26-38). The last verse can most likely be interpreted as referring to the coming of the Saviour, and Bach’s librettist has woven further allusions into the second movement. Yet the profound feeling and ‘bridal’ character of the hymn well suit the subject of the festival.
“The cantata has an unusual instrumental clothing; whereas the wind, with two horns and two oboes da caccia, emphasize the middle register only, the treble register is supplied by two concertante violins, in whose figurative playing the glittering of the ‘morning star’ is reflected. The opening chorus is a standard example of the form most frequently used in the chorale cantatas: the hymn melody, stated in long notes by the soprano (+ Horn I) with counter-points in the other choral parts, is built line by line into an independent orchestral texture.
“The recitatives, mainly set in syllabic declamation, are contrasted with the concertante, joyful agitation of the two arias, in which again instruments characteristic of the cantata’s orchestration are given prominence: oboe da caccia in the third movement, concertante violins with solo-tutti contrasts in the fifth. The simple setting of the final chorale is enriched by the independent part for the second horn.” – Alfred Dürr
Painting: Easter Morning, Caspar David Friedrich