Music for Advent 1 — Sunday November 27

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) – J S Bach (1685-1750)

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From the Netherlands Bach Society website:

Bach’s organ version of the chorale ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, this Sunday’s organ postlude in church, is possibly his best-known organ work, after the Toccata and fugue in D minor (BWV 565). The title translates roughly as ‘Awake, calls the voice to us’; the tune and associated text may be found in our Common Praise hymnal at 110.

This chorale arrangement is more or less a literal copy of ‘Zion hört die Wächter singen’, the fourth movement of Bach’s masterly cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 140). The viola and violin parts are played in unison in the right hand and the bass parts in the pedal, while the chorale ends up in the tenor. The arrangement is simple, with a couple of surprising tricks. The lack of harmony above the now stark bass, for instance, is barely discernible due to extra suspensions and other ornaments. This is the essence of Bach’s genius. Even when there is no elaborate continuo part, his melodies still hold their own.

Gerald Harder