Bach’s Operas of the Soul is the first introduction to Bach’s sacred cantatas for the general music lover.
In clear and accessible language, Mark Ringer examines this vast output of masterpieces as the great musical dramatic creations that they. Bach’s sacred cantatas represent an almost superhuman artistic and spiritual achievement, arguably the richest investment by a great composer within a single genre. But outside of a handful of pieces, they remain a closed book to a majority of serious listeners already familiar with Bach’s large-scale religious works. Nevertheless, the same musical-dramatic genius of Bach’s Passions is fully evident in virtually all of the composer's sacred cantatas. Ringer approaches the sacred cantatas as sermons in musical-dramatic form, un-staged operas, planned for each occasion of the church year. Bach’s era relished dramatic contrast, and his use of the human voice offers a constantly changing pallet of vocal colors. The singers play ‘roles’ throughout the cantatas from penitent sinner, to ardent believer, to Christ himself.
This book is accompanied by online audio tracks of select Bach canatatas from the Naxos music library. It will be of use to readers interested in opera and vocal music who have already come to love Bach’s Passions and who want to familiarize themselves with this wide array of masterpieces.
Mark Ringer is professor of theatre at Marymount Manhattan College. A contributor to the New York Times and other publications, he has worked extensively as a dramaturg, director, and actor throughout the United States and Europe. His books include Opera’s First Master: The Musical Dramas of Claudio Monteverdi and Schubert’s Theatre of Song.
[A] guide to the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach—specifically, his cycles of sacred cantatas, or works for solo voices and chorus with instrumental accompaniment composed for the Sundays and Feast Days in the Lutheran church calendar. Ringer (theater, Marymount Manhattan Coll.; Opera’s First Master) writes that though these cantatas constitute nearly half of the composer’s surviving works, they may still be unfamiliar to many classical music listeners. The author’s goal is to introduce readers to these pieces, and, he hopes, to a greater appreciation of Bach. Instead of listing the cantatas according to the customary BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) numbers, he presents them in the order of the liturgical calendar: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Trinity. The brief essays on each cantata function much like program notes at a live concert performance. To heighten the experience, a Hanssler Records CD is included with the book.Students and devotees of classical music will appreciate this introduction to some of the most transcendent music in the Western canon.