Johann Georg Reichard (1710–1782) Christmas Prophecy
„The people that walked in darkness“ edited by Wolfram Steude [mid vce,2vl,va,bc]
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In the latter half of the 18th and in the 19th century the Old Preface Testament Christmas prophecy (Isaiah 9, 1-6) formed the basis for numerous motetto- and cantata-like compositions originating from the Erzgebirge and the Vogtland of Saxony. From very early times, this text was included in Matins for Christmas day, hut until the period specified it was usually intoned on a reciting note.
The present cantata is one of the few surviving testimonies to musical activity in the small Thuringian town of Schleiz. The prophecy Das Volk, so im Finstern wandelt was written – probably for performance at court services – in all likelihood by Johann Georg Reichard, a magistrate in the Grafschaft (County) of Reuss who later held higher judicial appointments. Reichard was born at Oels (Olefoica) in Silesia in 1710 and studied law at Leipzig from 1732. He then went to Schleiz and rose from the position of archivist to high legal office, at the same time succeeding Gottfried Siegmund Liebich (d. 1736) as director of the court chapel. He died in Schleiz on 2 June 1782.
A few of his church cantatas and other pieces (serenades etc) written for the court at Schleiz once belonged to the Fürsten- and Landesschule of St Augustine at Grimma whose music holdings are now preserved in Dresden. Some of Reichard's compositions are autograph, some in copies made by his son Heinrich Gottfried Reichard (1742-1801) who pursued an active career at Grimma both in music and ancient philology, first as cantor, finally as co-rector.
The 'Prophecy' cantata survives anonymously in a score copied by Heinrich Gottfried Reichard who may well have sung it himself when he was fourteen, before bis voice broke – as the date Anno 17 56 suggests. He probably prepared the score in bis later years from the original parts, now no langer existent, as he did in the case of other works of his father’s. Whether he revised the musical text, and to what extent, cannot now be established.
This short and attractive work has all the lightness and exuberance of the rococo as well as genuine emotional depth. In addition, it is easy to perform and should prove very popular. Liturgically, it still occupies a place in Christmas matins or vespers. Permission for this publication was kindly given by Dr. Wolfgang Reich of the Sächsische Landesbibliothek Dresden, Musikabteilung.
Wolfram Steude, Dresden, January 1972