Photo: Jan van Eyck
The celebration of marriage has always incorporated music in many ways. Although customs and traditions might vary, wedding music in western culture has been an important and often indispensable aspect of the ceremony and its celebration. The weddings songs and dances that have been left to us from the middle ages onward have much to reveal about the people and culture to which they belonged.
Not all early wedding music was created alike, especially if royalty was involved. For the late-Renaissance wedding of Philip II and Mary Tudor, the ceremony was nothing short of a spectacle. The music used throughout reflected the backgrounds of the wedding couple: a political union between Spain and England. Naturally, each country carted out their best music and most prominent musicians.
For Spain, this meant bringing over an entourage of instrumentalists as well as their most esteemed organist, Antonio de Cabezón.
For the 1660 wedding of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain, a grand celebration was executed, yet not all of the plans went according to schedule. Apparently, one of the highlights was a premiere of Cavalli’s opera Ercole Amante, which, due to numerous production delays, did not receive its first performance until two years later.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a number of works for weddings. For the cantata entitled Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, there is very little information regarding the people for whom it was intended. The only clue comes to us from its text, which suggests that it may have been a Spring wedding.
We move on from Bach the father to music of his sons Johann Christian and Johann Christoph Friedrich. The London-based ensemble The Music Collection performs a select program of keyboard concertos under the direction of their fortepiano soloist Susan Alexander-Max.
Here’s a video of soprano Lisa Larsson singing the aria “Weichet nur” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s wedding cantata of the same title: