Tuesday, March 31, 2015

J.S. Bach: All Music To "The Glory Of God And The Refreshment Of The Soul"

J.S. Bach                                      E.G. Haussman, Germany, 1746
In the summer of my ninth year our family moved from the small town we called home. We left not only familiar places but also family, including the large family at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church. The church had been baptizing members of my father's family for eighty years and I was one of them. Mount Calvary was also the place that introduced me to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It helped to have an aunt as church organist and several aunts, uncles, and cousins in the choir. I thank them almost every day.

Birthday commemorations at Old Tybee Ranger usually begin with a bit of biographical information. In the case of Bach the music tells us all we really need to know.

Being that it is Holy Week, we begin with the opening chorus from Bach's Passion According to St. John, BWV 245:

Lord, thou our Governor, thou, whose fame 

In every nation glorious is, 
Show us through this thy Passion, 
That thou, the very Son of God, 
In every age, E'en in the greatest depths of woe,
Most glorious art become!

Here is a familiar piece attributed to Bach, Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, performed by 17 year-old Dutch organist, Gert van Heof:

Canadian Glenn Gould was the most technically perfect interpreter of Bach's keyboard music in our lifetime. His approach was unique and not to everyone's preference. Gould was well-known for singing along while he performed. Here he is playing several of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988:

Finally here is the opening chorus from Bach's cantata, Wachet auf, rue uns die Stimme, BWV 140, also known as Sleepers Awake.

“Wake, arise,” loud call the voices 

of watchmen so high in the tower,

“Wake up, you town Jerusalem!”
Midnight’s hour is now approaching

They call to us with lucid voices: 

Where are the clever virgins now?

Behold, the bridegroom comes 

Rise up, your lanterns take! 

Prepare yourself 

For the wedding,
You must arise and go to him!

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