Unity in Bach’s Cantata No.78According to Rowell, “Musical composition became much longer, and composer were forced to evolve new means of maintaining unity and continuity over long time spans” during the Baroque period. Therefore, the texture of music became very important. When I look at the musical texutre of the Cantata No. 78 by J. S. Bach, I realized that this piece was unified very well within a movement and as a whole piece by many techniques. Some of those techniques were found in the text, and the others were in the music.
First of all, the text is well organized in terms of its unity. The piece has seven movements. According to Fuller, “The first and last movements adopt the text of an established mid-seventeenth-century chorale by Johann Rist. The middle movements have new text by an unknown poet who occasionally quotes or paraphrases middle stanzas of the chorale.” Moreover, this unknown pot himself repeates some words in the text.
Also, those repeated words are often supported by music to emphasize the unity as a whole piece. For example, the word “Ewigkeit (eternity)” is originally in the seventh movement, and it is also sung in the sixth movement. The one in the seventh movement is at the very end of the piece with a fermate on the top of half note (p. 543, m. 16). So the note can be extended as much as it needs to express the word, “eternity.” The one in the sixth movement is also a long note (p. 540-541, m. 37-38, 49-51). The word is associated with a whole note, half note and 1/8 note tied into 61/2 beats to express its meaning. Those two sections of the piece with the word, “Ewigkeit,” and similar music expression would make a strong connection between the two movement.
Other examples which are s…
…se upon the music structure of the last movement.
The Cantata No. 78 is a very long piece of music, so the poet and the composer needed to come up with techniques to maintain its unity. For example, there are several repeated words to connect some movements together, repeated ending syllables to provide regularity in the whole piece, variation over the common bass line, and common musical development in the first and the last movement to round up as a whole piece. I believe that the fact of bringing the very basic music structure at the last movement and putting the most developed one in the first movement has very strong impact of unity. Since the music starts from much more developed and broader sense, and it has a direction towards more basic but focused and concentrated sense, it would develop the feeling of returning to home or rounding up to a whole piece.