Cantata 36, Schwingt freudig euch empor (Soar joyfully upwards), is another interesting example of Bach “stealing from himself.” Parts of this sacred cantata are based on music he used in a secular work he had composed in 1725 to mark the birthday of a Leipzig University teacher. Supposedly, there were several other extractions, combinations and modifications before Bach completely reworked the cantata for its first performance in 1731, just one week after the first performance of the popular Cantata 140, Sleepers Awake. The result is stunning.
I chanced upon this cantata when I discovered the J.S. Bach Foundation. Based in St. Gallen, Switzerland, under the artistic direction of Rudolf Lutz, the Foundation has set out to perform, and release on DVD, the complete vocal works of Bach over the course of 25 years.
The final aria of Cantata 36, scored for soprano and con sordino (muted) violin is sublimely beautiful. The J.S. Bach Foundation performance with soloists Nuria Rial (soprano) and John Holloway (violin) is otherworldly. Have a listen here.