I was 17 and my voice was not going to get me to the Met, but I enjoyed singing to the tiny group that gathered on Friday afternoons in Room 204 of Northrup Auditorium at the U in Minneapolis. The month my boyfriend Jesse got out of the army (May 1972, just before he joined the Black Panthers) my teacher lent me an album of Teresa Stich-Randall and I picked out this number to do. It’s not a hard piece to learn but whoa, that breath control… That I managed to make it to the very end with some grace is due to Bach’s blessing to singers—all that forward motion impels you. But the effort was worth it. What a high!
Bach composed BWV 51 during a period when he composed church cantatas only irregularly, some of them to complete his earlier cycles. Both the soprano part, which covers two octaves and requires a high C, and the solo trumpet part, which at times trades melodic lines with the soprano on an equal basis, are extremely virtuosic. The cantata is one of only four sacred cantatas that Bach wrote for a solo soprano. The first aria, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” (“Exult in God in every land”), is in da capo form, with extended coloraturas. The theme, with a beginning in a triad fanfare, is well suited to the trumpet. It is first developed in a ritornello of the orchestra and then constantly worked in the soprano part. At least, that’s what I remember.
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