The greatest miracle occurring between the Big Bang and this day, 22 February 2000, was the creative life of Johann Sebastian Bach, which culminated in his awesome cantata production of the 1720s. In a few years, Bach wrote hundreds of cantatas, sometimes at a pace of one a week. Just imagine, Bach wrote a complete cantata in a few days and then the various parts had to be copied and everything had to be rehearsed for the performance of the next Sunday. In spite of this breath-taking production tempo, Bach created, in my humble opinion, many of the most beautiful compositions ever made.
The same can be said about his numerous organ and keyboard works, his concertos, his astonishing compositions for cello and violin solo. To honor the genius of Bach, the American composer Jan Hanford and I made a web site known as the J.S. Bach Home Page. I have been playing, studying and listening to Bach's music since I was 14 and I'm glad the Internet makes it possible to share my passion with others.
In 1995, I also visited the places where Bach lived and worked, as reported in the J.S. Bach Tourist. I can recommend this kind of trip to every lover of Bach's music, not only because of the pretty towns and landscapes, but also because it adds a dimension to your understanding of Bach's biography. It particularly gives you the geographic background of what Christoph Wolff called Bach's emancipation from a milieu of almost medieval Thuringian town pipers and cantors to the ranks of the bourgeoisie of Leipzig.
Following the Michelin Guide, I have made a selection of my 19 favorite arias from the cantatas (based on the complete Leonhardt/Harnoncourt recording) and assigned them three or two stars. I could easily make another list with almost equally fabulous highlights, so, don't take it too seriously. Most of all, of course, I hope you will make your own list and agree with me that almost nothing enriches life as much as the miraculous beauty created by Johann Sebastian Bach.
1. BWV 194 (3) Was des Hoechsten Glanz erfuellt
2. BWV 112 (4) Du bereitest fuer mir einen Tisch
3. BWV 30 (5) Kommt, ihr angefochtnen Suender
4. BWV 68 (9) Mein glaeubiges Herze
5. BWV 104 (11) Beglueckte Herde, Jesu Schafe
6. BWV 108 (16) Was mein Herz von dir begehrt
7. BWV 115 (2) Ach, schlaefrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch?
8. BWV 92 (14) Meinem Hirten bleib ich treu
9. BWV 103 (5) Erholet euch, betruebte Sinnen
10. BWV 183 (2) Ich fuerchte nicht des Todes Schrecken
11. BWV 41 (4) Woferne du den edlen Frieden
12. BWV 87 (6) Ich will leiden, ich will schweigen
13. BWV 155 (2) Du musst glauben, du musst hoffen
14. BWV 82 (3) Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen
15. BWV 93 (3) Man halte nur ein wenig stille
16. BWV 17 (5) Welche Uebermass der Guete
17. BWV 65 (6) Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin
18. BWV 137 (2) Lobe den Herren, der alles so herrlich regieret
19. BWV 5 (3) Ergiesse dich reichlich, du goettliche Quelle
(the numbers in parentheses refer to the track numbers on the CDs of the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt recordings)
Last update: 22 February 2000