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Stradivari's pattern for a viola d'amore bridge

Stradivari’s pattern for a viola d’amore bridge

Bach’s cantata Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (BWV 152) was first performed three hundred years ago on 30 December 1714, the Sunday after Christmas. With a text written by Salomon Franck, the Weimar court poet, the cantata is the earliest extant example of a dialogue, a technique that Bach repeated in his third annual cycle of cantatas written for Leipzig.

Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn is scored for soprano and bass soloists and four solo instruments: recorder, oboe, viola d’amore, viola da gamba and basso continuo. Christoph Wolff calls attention to the “colorful and delicate effects achievable with these forces.”

Among the extant Bach cantatas, only Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn employs the viola d’amore. The composer, however, made extensive use of a pair of these instruments in his scoring for the St. John Passion (BWV 245).