Bach’s cantata Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen (I go and seek with longing) was first performed on 3 November 1726, almost certainly at St. Thomas’ in Leipzig. The text, with obvious references to the Song of Songs, portrays Jesus and the Christian soul as metaphorical bridegroom and bride, musically portrayed by the bass and soprano soloists. It is likewise not hard to hear two metaphorical lovers in the oboe d’amore and violoncello piccolo obbligatos in the soprano aria, even if we substitute a regular oboe and viola for the two more fancy instruments today.
But perhaps the most striking solo instrument in this cantata is the organ. The opening sinfonia—not a very common phenomenon in Bach cantatas—is a marvelous organ concerto movement. In the first aria, the organ solo alone accompanies the bass soloist. The final duet—with the magnificent chorale melody ‘How brightly shines the Morningstar’ cleverly worked in—once again has a prominent (and virtuoso!) role for the King of Instruments. One is tempted to speculate that Bach’s oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann—about to turn sixteen and well on his way to becoming the second-greatest organist of his time—was the first to play the challenging organ part. If so, could his younger brother Carl Philipp—aged 12½—have been the soprano soloist?
However this may be, the presence of the fine 1879 Willis organ—even if not exactly a ‘Bach organ’—at the Armidale Uniting
Church made this cantata an especially attractive choice for this year’s Bach Festival.