Chattanoooga Bach Choir and Orchestra Delighting audiences with Classical and Baroque choral music since 1985

Program Notes

Notes for the latest concert; also see Past Program Notes

Notes on BWV 80

Because of its basis in Martin Luther’s famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, this work may well be the best known of Bach’s cantatas. Composed between 1727 and 1731, the piece was written for a celebration of Reformation Day on October 31, at which time the Lutheran Church celebrated Protestantism in general and Lutheranism in particular. So familiar was Luther’s melody to Bach’s audience that he abandoned his normal approach of featuring the unadorned chorale tune prominently in the first movement; instead, he composed a tour-de-force of variations and ornamentation on the tune from the first measure. The chorale melody occurs in four of the eight movements; also appearing in the bass aria/chorale of the second movement, sung in long, slow notes in the soprano line. It reappears in the fifth movement in triple rhythm for unison choir and then is presented in a straightforward four-part harmony in the chorale that ends the piece. Cantata 80 calls for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, mixed choir, three oboes, two oboe d’amore, taille (all performed today by two oboes and English horn), strings and continuo. It was last performed by the Chattanooga Bach Choir on October 18, 2009, conducted by David Long.

Dabney Carden

Rev. by David Long

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