A Festive Tribute (J S Bach, arr. Philip Sparke)

A Festive Tribute is an arrangement of a splendid chorus which Bach first used in the secular Cantata 207 of 1726 but is perhaps better known in its later version, which appears in Cantata 207a, the descriptively titled Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten, which cannot adequately translated but means something along the lines of ‘let the trumpets sound’.

Apart from the recitatives, the cantata takes all its music from No 207 which in turn borrows heavily from Bach’s earlier output, particularly the Brandenburg Concerti; it was written, probably in 1735, as a tribute to King Augustus III of Poland, who was also elector of Saxony; it is one of several pieces Bach had written for the king in an attempt to apply for the post of court composer, succeeding to the title in November 1736.

While the lyrics are perhaps a little obsequious, much of the music is celebratory and lushly scored for a large orchestra including trumpets, oboes d’amore and flutes. The closing chorus August, lebe, lebe, König is Bach at his most ceremonial.