The Seven Planets in Bach, Buxtehude, and a Dresden Ballet of 1678
Cooper, Jeffrey Thomas
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Dieterich Buxtehude wrote seven suites on the Planets that have not survived; we know them only from a commendation by Johann Mattheson. Other seven-planet works of the time include a Dresden opera-ballet of 1678 whose composer is unknown, and a 1719 serenata by Johann David Heinichen written in contemporary Italian style. The 1678 opera-ballet is examined as a possible relative of the lost Buxtehude suites, alongside other astronomy-themed works of the time, such as J. C. F. Fischer’s “Uranie” Passacaglia from Musicalischer Parnassus. A complete score of the 1678 opera-ballet is included in the appendix. The probable acquaintance of J. S. Bach with the Buxtehude suites from a relatively young age prompts a search for the seven-planet schema in his early works, and in fact, the two cantatas Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, and Gott ist mein König, BWV 71 fit this schema. Rhetorical types abstracted from these cantatas, including the Saturn-Mercury pair and the Mars-Venus pair, can be found among Bach’s later chorale-based works. The analysis results in a valuable new understanding of the structure of Bach’s two major early cantatas as well as a tentative account of what the Buxtehude suites themselves might have been like.