This is by Bach. You’ll sometimes hear it spoken of as “Cantata no. 131” but that’s misleading, because it’s among the first — maybe the first — of his cantatas. The 131 is its entry in the “BWV” works-of-Bach numbering system. It doesn’t actually have a name, but the text is from the 130th Psalm in German and begins Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir “Out of the depths I call, Lord, to you”. It’s exquisite. As I write this, it’s 310 years old.
A mere twelve years ago, I blogged about this work and about cantatas in general; how they came to be and why there are so many of them. If you want to know more, go read that.
BWV 131 has five movements; I like all of them, but the middle movements, two through four, are where the real gold is. Two is basically a two-part piece for bass soloist against the soprano section, with a bit of oboe and cello. Three has the choir sections singing against each other, as smooth as silk and as complex as spider silk. Four is a tenor and a cello dancing in front of a backing vocal section. There was a time, in the first half of the seventeenth century, where if you went to church in the right place in central Germany you’d get fresh music by J.S. Bach every week.
My favorite recording is this one featuring Belgian musicians led by Herreweghe; the soloists are great but the production lets the awesome backing vocals, mostly endless ascending or descending lines, be heard clearly. That Amazon link doesn’t have a streaming version of the performance, but you can find it here.
Links · Spotify playlist.
As for live video, if you want something intimate, with cool original instruments and even a Theorbo (wow!), and great camerawork here you go. But this take led by Ton Koopman, with a larger ensemble, seems to have more feeling and touches me more deeply, except for the tenor solo in movement 4, which is clearly better in the first video. Here’s another YouTube of the same performance, with a lousy picture and only the first movement, but with a couple of minutes of erudite and affectionate commentary from Koopman, which I enjoyed listening to.