Music for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost — August 20 30, 2023

Wir glauben all an einen Gott (BWV 680)J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

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Comprising twenty-one chorale preludes – organ pieces based on Lutheran hymns – as well as four duets, and opening and closing with the mighty ‘St Anne’ Prelude and Fugue, the third book of Bach’s Clavier-Übung is so much more than its somewhat prosaic title (‘Keyboard Practice’) might suggest. The chorale preludes each appear in two highly contrasted settings. One is a large-scale composition requiring an instrument with two manuals and pedals while the other is for manuals only and generally much shorter. Most of the chorales refer to the six parts of the Lutheran catechism.

This morning’s organ postlude is Bach’s setting in the Clavier-Übung of Luther’s version of the Nicene Creed. The melody, by Johann Walter and published with Luther’s text in 1524, is based on the Gregorian Credo IV. This is treated fugally in the manuals, while the pedal repeats in various keys a striding figure, rising in thirds, which has been seen as ‘the struggle of faith.’

Gerald Harder