Cantata for the 2nd Christmas Day
The second cantata of the Christmas Oratory was perfomed for the first time on 26th of december in 1734. The cantata is about the announciatoin of the birth of Christ to the shepherds.
The cantata starts with a truly special sinfonia (one of the pieces which seemed to be newly composed instead of reused movements from Bachs saecular cantatas) for strings, two traverse flutes (which symbolize the angels) and no less than four oboes (two oboi d’amore and two oboi da caccia, the same oboe instrumentation as in BWV 183). Without doubt the oboe choir stands for the shepards.
The cantata tells the gospel on Luke 2,8-14 (which actually is designated to the first Christmas Day) by the tenor evangelist and is embedded in three chorales, two arias and a large choir „Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe“. Bach reuses two arias: the 6th movement (an aria for tenor and flauto traverso obligato) „Frohe Hirten, eilt, ach eilet“ is a parody of BWV 214,5 (which is originally an aria for alto and oboe d’amore!) and the 10th movement, an aria for alto & flauto traverso in unisono, all four oboes and strings (which originates in BWV 213,3).
In the centre of the cantata is the 8th verse of Paul Gerhardts chorale „Schaut, schaut, was ist für Wunder dar?“. It is written by Bach in the very low C-major key and symbolizes the self-degradation of God becoming a human being, lieing in a feeding crib (its last phrase goes down till the C).
The cantata ends with Gerhardts 2nd verse of the chorale „Wir singen dir, Immanuel“. It picks up the musical subject from the opening sinfonia, now performing all groups together: the angel/flute choir, parishioners/strings and the shepards/oboes.
As always, the scores are completely based on Bachs authograph scores, I tried to stay as close as possible to the autograph parts and annotated all additions in a dashed style.