Musical representations of grief in Bach's church cantatas.
According to Melvin Unger's categorisation of over a thousand distinct themes in Bach's church cantata recitatives, the theme of suffering – which, he specifies, includes grief – is among the ten most frequent (2004: 284–285). His research, like that of Chafe (1991 & 2000), exemplifies a contemporary trend in Bach scholarship which focuses on the representation of textual themes in Bach's music. While the theme of death has been the subject of studies by Robertson (1972) and Milner (1995), no comprehensive appraisal exists of Bach's musical representation of emotions as themes. Given the prominence of the theme of grief in the church cantata librettos, this paper explores some ways this orientation is represented in Bach's music. It identifies the principal early eighteenth-century Orthodox Lutheran orientation towards grief as found in the cantatas, and briefly, also considers how the understanding of the theology and the musical rhetoric surrounding the theme of grief in the cantatas may influence the way we understand and listen to these works today.
Music, senses, body
Musicology and Ethnomusicology