My first encounter with Cantata No. 56 was the beautiful recording of Daniel Lichti performing it with the Bach Festival Orchestra on The Choir’s recording, “Wachet Auf!” As a 9th grader, I tended more towards the other choral movements on that recording, but also often pondered the deepness of 56. Dan sings this cantata beautifully, and the orchestra provides extremely sensitive accompaniment. The recording wears its age well, and I encourage you to add it to your library, if you haven’t already! The cantata is a beautiful musical and spiritual journey, full of images of the sea, with beautiful text-painting and sensitive and graceful writing.
We’ll have a rare opportunity to hear the piece in person tomorrow, this time with Dashon Burton singing the solos. One of our favorite press blurbs for Dashon is the quote from the New York Times, which praises his voice as being “seemingly capable of raising the dead.” If you heard his thrilling and captivating performances of Elijah, this past weekend, you know such a contention is not hyperbole. There were multiple hair-raising high notes, offered without an ounce of overindulgence. Dashon is a singer of enormous artistic integrity, perhaps even more so because of his relative youth. He’s also capable of music-making of great personal introspection (his sotto voce singing of “It is enough” from Elijah made that readily apparent over the weekend). Thus, he is an amazing match for the spiritual and intellectual demands of Cantata 56. You won’t want to miss this performance.
Though not a lenten cantata, 56 explores themes of life, death, and the long Christian journey that Bach so adroitly captures in his music. Carol Traupman-Carr has a insightful and detailed examination of the musical aspects of this piece on our Bach 101 page. Please do read her analysis – it gives a fantastic preview of the riches on order for tomorrow’s concert.
Also on the program is Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Oboes, RV 535, with Mary Watt and Nobuo Kitagawa handling the solos. This wonderful concerto begins with a moving largo, and then bursts into a wonderfully virtuosic allergo dialogue between the two oboes and strings. Another beautiful largo follows, with the duetting oboes playing lyrical and heartrending suspensions together over basso continuo. The piece concludes with another allegro, this one with lots of active counterpoint, and even sprightlier dialogues between oboes and oboes and strings. The concerto is a compact masterpiece, and in Mary and Nobuo, we have two soloists of the highest order. I make no attempts to conceal my esteem for both of them – they’re both expressive and eloquent musicians with seemingly endless reserves of lung power. They’ll be supported by a small ensemble of our excellent string players and continuo musicians.
The doors will open at 11:30. Please plan to arrive soon thereafter to secure a good seat!