Cantata No. 51: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach’s Cantata “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” was composed around 1730 for purposes that are unclear. His cantatas were normally written for a specific day in the Lutheran liturgical calendar, to texts that comment or expand on the scriptural readings or a holiday. But Bach marked the score, “For the 15th Sunday after Trinity and at any time,” which is to say the text is not specific to any particular day, but fits any joyful occasion. The virtuosic trumpet part (which sounds in C, a fourth lower than the Second Brandenburg’s F trumpet) was doubtless intended for the noted Leipzig trumpeter Gottfried Reiche, but we have no clue about the singer. In Lutheran churches of the time, the sopranos were boys, albeit boys far more experienced than modern boy sopranos. For reasons science has yet to fathom, boys’ voices break much earlier now than they did in the 18th century, when sopranos in their middle teens were common. Rapid runs were not rare in soprano parts, but “Jauchzet Gott” has a lot of them, and also goes up to high C, a note composers didn’t write unless it was for a specific singer who could hit it.
Bach created great contrast out of fairly subtle shifts in the text, so the Cantata represents the idea of offering praise to God not only in the virtuosic and energetic first movement, but in the simpler accompanied recitative and tender minor-key aria that follow. The fourth movement is a setting of the chorale “Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren,” sung plainly against violins’ elaborate counterpoint. It leads directly to a concluding “Allelujah,” another virtuosic showcase for singer and trumpet.
— Howard Posner