You may be asking yourself, “Why have you never written about a Bach piece?” (except briefly in last week’s playlist). So today, we are finally going to look at the great J S Bach, and one of his pieces (which is a cantata BTW).

Johann Sebastian Bach.jpg
(Bach in his favorite wig)

Johann Sebastian Bach” by Elias Gottlob Haussmannhttp://www.jsbach.net/bass/elements/bach-hausmann.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s hard to find a place to begin with Bach. After all, he wrote over 1000 pieces. (If you think keeping up with music is hard, you now realize the struggle of a classical music nerd.) But anyway, Bach kept himself busy writing music, and taking care of his family. He had 7 children with his first wife, then after she died, he remarried and had 13 more kids, but sadly only 10 lived to adulthood.

Bach wrote lots of different forms of music: cantatas, fugues, preludes, inventions, toccatas, etc. We don’t really have the time to get into all those forms, so today we’re gonna look at just one: the cantata.

Singers + instruments = cantata

Cantatas also consist of movements (separate parts). One of Bach’s cantatas, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (he was German too so all the titles are in German), or the Coffee Cantata, is a work about a father trying to get his daughter to stop drinking coffee. This is almost 300 years ago, in case you were wondering, but it definitely sounds like something that would happen today (someone addicted to coffee). It is hysterical, look at the summary of the movements in the far right column:

Summary of the movements from en.wikipedia.org

Today we will look at an aria from another Bach cantata. Sorry if you don’t know German, but I will translate the titles for you. This is from BWV 1128 (BWV is like opus for other composers), which is called Mein Frühstück gefällt mir (My Breakfast Pleases Me). The main character Friedrich, is a poor man who lives with his wife and 5 kids in a small house. At the beginning of the cantata, he sings about his situation in the aria, Ich habe keinen Geld (I have no money), which introduces us to him and his family. It takes place in the morning, so he is about to make breakfast after his kids sing the chorus Mein Bauch spricht dieses Morgen (they sing about being hungry and wanting breakfast). He proceeds to make breakfast (heating up the coffee first and foremost) while singing:

Children, be still
Do you not know that every morning
Before the work has started
A large pot of dark coffee
Must first be brewed?

(You can probably tell by now that Bach loved coffee.)

At this point, (oh BTW his wife usually makes breakfast but today he wanted to make his favorite recipe so he’s cooking) his wife comes in to critique his cooking, at which point he sings the aria Meine Liebe, du bist sehr Schön (My love, you are very beautiful). They kiss and she sits down at the table. Soon the breakfast is ready and the children sing Das sind die ausgezeichnete Salzkartoffeln (Those are the excellent boiled potatoes). The father begins to be thankful for the small things despite having very little, and sings about it in the aria Mein Frühstück gefällt mir (I love my breakfast), to end the cantata.

Seeing as this is a lesser known work it is hard to find on YouTube. But I did find a performance of one aria from the cantata, in which the husband speaks of his love for his wife (Meine Liebe, du bist sehr Schön) and his determination to stand by her side through good times and bad.

Stay tuned for more music nerdiness in the days to come.

Moll

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