Music for The Holy Family — December 31, 2023

In dir ist Freude (BWV 615) – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

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From the Netherlands Bach Society Web Site:

Short-short-short-long is the rhythm of the ultra-short melodic fragment around which this chorale prelude – this Sunday’s organ postlude in church, the title of which translates to “In thee is joy” – is constructed. They are the four opening notes of an extremely cheerful New Year’s carol, which in turn is based on a sixteenth-century balletto by Gastoldi in triple time. This explains both the dance-like character of the piece and its tempo. The rhythmical motif keeps recurring on other notes in the hymn, which is why the words, too, keep almost completely to the rather breathless structure. But Bach sticks teasingly to these four opening notes, of which two are even the same note. It is only by degrees that we get to hear the whole melody, but even then the little motif keeps popping up. It is a joke that is well suited to the irrepressibly cheerful festoons that decorate the notes. It is supported in the bass by an ostinato with features reminiscent of a carillon. This, too, endorses the jubilant words – a hymn of praise to the coming of Christ.

Gerald Harder