CJ Replay: Bach's Audition
Date: February 27, 2014
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “Bach and Graupner: The Audition Cantatas,” by John Curtis)
At the time of Kuhnau's death in 1722, Bach was Capellmeister in Cathen in the service of Prince Leopold. Bach got along well with the Prince and was satisfied with his position until Leopold married Friederica Henrietta (his own cousin) in December 1721. In a letter to his friend Georg Erdmann in 1730, Bach recalled that the Prince's dedication to the music of his court became "somewhat lukewarm, especially as the new Princess seemed to be unmusical."8 The Leipzig opening was a timely opportunity for Bach to find more favorable surroundings, but he lacked the musical connections with the city enjoyed by Telemann and Graupner.
Bach's audition date was February 7, 1723, the last Sunday after Epiphany, also known as Estomihi.9 In the eighteenth century Lutheran calendar Estomihi, three days before Ash Wednesday, marked the beginning of the Lenten penitential season. The Gospel text for this Sunday, Luke 18: 31-43 is in two parts. In the first part of the text, Jesus tells his twelve disciples they are going to Jerusalem where he will be killed, but they do not understand what he is saying. In the second part a blind man named Bartimaeus senses Jesus' presence and twice calls out "Son of David, have mercy on me," whereupon his sight is restored.