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Bach's Major Vocal WorksMusic, Drama, Liturgy$
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Markus Rathey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300217209

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300217209.001.0001

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From Love Song to Lullaby

From Love Song to Lullaby

The Christmas Oratorio BWV 248

Chapter:
(p.35) Chapter Three From Love Song to Lullaby
Source:
Bach's Major Vocal Works
Author(s):

Markus Rathey

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300217209.003.0003

This chapter examines the Christmas Oratorio, with particular emphasis on the relationship between Johann Sebastian Bach’s interest in operatic scenes and his setting of the nativity story. The Christmas Oratorio tells the story of Christ’s incarnation as a love story between God and mankind. Composed in 1734, it is the story of Christ (as the divine word incarnate) entering and dwelling in the human heart. It also interprets the Christmas story from a very individual perspective as an act of divine love. This chapter explains how Bach borrowed some of the movements from secular works, including the Hercules cantata, and integrated them into the Christmas Oratorio. It also considers how love songs turn into lullabies and allusions to the consummation of carnal desire are transformed into a praise of divine mercy. Finally, it suggests how the Christmas Oratorio allowed Bach to satisfy his own fascination with dramatic music while keeping within the constraints of the liturgy.

Keywords:   liturgy, Christmas Oratorio, Johann Sebastian Bach, Christmas, Christ, incarnation, divine love, love songs, lullabies, divine mercy

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