Cantata No.56

Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No.56

BWV56 • “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen”

About this work

Composed for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, which fell on October 27, 1726, Bach's Cantata No. 56 "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" (I will gladly carry the cross) (BWV 56) sets a text by an unknown author based on the Gospel according to Matthew 9:1-8 and concludes with the chorale by Johann Franck from 1653. Like the slightly later "Ich arme Mensch, ich Sundenknecht" (BWV 55), "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" is written for solo voice, in this case a bass-baritone, and begins in gloomy G minor as befits its text, which dwells on "affliction, trouble, and distress." The soloist is accompanied by a pair of oboes and taille, strings, and basso continuo. The Kreuzstab was a navigational tool, a precursor to the sextant, and the text is filled with nautical references. "Kreuz" means both cross and sharp, and Bach made use of the pun, sharpening notes noticeably in the first aria. "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" starts in G minor with its first movement in the tonic, its second and third movements in the relative major of B flat, and its fourth and fifth in the subdominant of C minor with a picardy third on the final cadence. The first movement is a large-scale da capo aria for soloists and full orchestra, with the oboes and taille doubling the strings. The second movement is an in-tempo recitative for soloist and continuo with an obbligato solo cello playing arpeggios, imitating undulating waves, for all but the last five bars where the text indicates arrival into port. The third movement is a hearty da capo aria in the form of a trio sonata for soloist, oboe, and continuo. The fourth movement is a restrained recitative for soloist, strings, and continuo. The cantata concludes with a hushed and hopeful harmonization of Franck's chorale for the otherwise tacit chorus and full orchestra.

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