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The so-called 'Neumeister' chorales—an expansive collection of preludes, thirty-eight of which have now been confidently ascribed to Bach—were discovered only in the 1980s. Youthful experimentations perhaps, these masterclasses in concision here follow the more expansive ten-sectioned BWV770 which is the perfect showcase for the Metzler Organ housed in the chapel of Trinity College Cambridge.
‘The Complete Organ Works of Bach’
Given that strong foundation, it is no surprise that organ music flowed from Bach’s pen throughout his life. Yet how do Bach’s organ works cohere? For the monolithic notion of ‘The Complete Organ Works of Bach’ is misleading. The picture is more fluid, even unclear, both as to the veracity of individual works and of their particular chronology. The impression is of a combination of works that have reached us in their present form through an often uncertain process of revision and collection (such as the Six Sonatas, BWV525–530) and those with a more definite origin and/or date, such as Clavierübung III, which was published in 1739. Even a collection with a clear didactic purpose that is apparently easy to date like the Orgelbüchlein, BWV599–644 (its title page is dated to 1722 or 1723) can remain opaque in the chronology and detail of its contents: the title page was added later than the chorales it contains. Many of the preludes and fugues do not exist in autograph form, a fact that in most cases does not affect the question of authorship as much as that of the date of composition, although the authorship of some organ works previously assumed to have been by Bach have been called into question, like the Eight Short Preludes and Fugues, BWV553–560. Others are easier by virtue of their singularity either to ascribe authorship to, such as the Passacaglia, BWV582, or to date, such as the Concerto Transcriptions, BWV592–596, which are from Bach’s Weimar years. However, the fluidity of the corpus is not as interesting—or as significant—as the stylistic and generic variety it exhibits.
Genres, Styles and Influences
Bach’s organ works are characterised, typically for the composer, by a multiplicity of genres and stylistic influences. Broadly they can be categorised into five areas, though inevitably these overlap: chorale-based works (preludes, partitas, variations, trios); the Six Sonatas; preludes/toccatas/fantasias (including the Passacaglia) and fugues (paired together, and single); transcriptions of works by other composers (concertos, trios, etc.); miscellaneous works (Allabreve, Canzona, Pièce d’orgue, etc.). Williams catalogues the multifarious stylistic influences on Bach’s organ works. Many of these are traceable to other contemporary German organ composers whose compositional style Bach would almost certainly have known. As Williams states, these would have included Pachelbel, Böhm, Buxtehude, Bruhns, Reinken, Kerl and Froberger. Bach’s organ works also frequently betray a French influence, both specifically, such as in the famous example of the Passacaglia, BWV582, the first half of whose main theme originates in a piece by Raison, and more generically, such as in the C minor Fantasia, BWV562 with its stylistic debt to French composers such as de Grigny. In addition, an Italian influence is often felt in the manual writing across-the-board from the quasi-string writing in the Six Sonatas to the tripartite Toccata in C, BWV564 via the Frescobaldian Canzona, BWV588 and Corellian Allabreve, BWV589.
As the above discussion suggests, it is not surprising that many of the exact original purposes for the organ works remain unknown, though in general terms the following categories of use can be discerned: liturgical (many, if not most, of the chorales and chorale preludes; some of the prelude/toccata and fugue pairs); didactic (the Six Sonatas; the Orgelbüchlein); stylistic assimilation (the concerto transcriptions; some toccatas and fantasias; Legrenzi and Corelli Fugues). In addition, collections such as Clavierübung III and perhaps the Schübler Chorales had a purpose that transcended their immediate utility: the desire to offer a musical-theological compendium (Clavierübung III), or leave a musical legacy (Schübler Chorales).
A Note on Current Bach Scholarship
Such is the scope of Bach’s organ works. But how have they been covered in the literature? There is a fascinating dialectic evident in current Bach studies more broadly between a hermeneutic taken up with purely musical concerns for Bach’s works, and a broader analytical approach to his music that seeks to contextualize Bach’s contrapuntal, figurative and harmonic peculiarities and complexities within a much broader framework involving contemporary theology, aesthetics, philosophy, and science. Assessing these different approaches to Bach’s music is difficult, as the results are inevitably mixed. On the one hand, there is a need to maintain a degree of musical integrity by allowing the musical features of Bach’s compositions to come first in any attempt to understand them. Thus, some of the least convincing musical-analytical work done from the contextual side arises from an approach to Bach’s music that is too superficial. On the other hand, there is a sense in some of the ‘music-only’ approaches that any recourse to relevant external and contextual questions ought to be dismissed out of hand when clearly such factors occasionally—perhaps often—played a legitimate role in Bach’s compositional process. The ideal, then, seems to be to take an approach to describing Bach’s organ music that both honours the music itself whilst allowing for wider contextual questions to shape one’s thinking as appropriate, perhaps on a piece-by-piece basis. With that in mind, there seem to be two broad extra-musical contexts of particular relevance to the organ music of Bach in which purely musical observations can be worked out. These are theology, and aesthetics.
Peter Williams highlights a conundrum that needs tackling if one is to think theologically about Bach’s organ music, namely the tension that exists between Bach’s stated theological intention in composition (most famously revealed in the composer’s signature ‘S.D.G.’—‘Soli Deo Gloria’ (To God Alone Be Glory)—that has been found on some of Bach’s manuscripts, penned after the final bars) and the apparent self-interestedness of much of Bach’s music. The key that unlocks this dilemma is the observation made by John Butt, that for Bach, as for other Lutherans, music was intrinsically of eternal value. We can be more specific and outline two ways in which the inherent theological nature of music, as it was understood, appears to have influenced the music Bach actually wrote.
1) Music as Theological Metaphor
A theological idea that was found in the Leipzig circles in which Bach moved in the 1740s was that God’s beauty can be conceived conceptually as a type of harmonia:
God is a harmonic being. All harmony originates from his wise order and organization…Where there is no conformity, there is also no order, no beauty, and no perfection. For beauty and perfection consists in the conformity of diversity.
This fundamental idea of God’s beauty as expressed in His unity-in-diversity immediately invites the metaphorical projection of this concept onto His creation: His beauty is expressed though His creation via the same aesthetic of unity-in-diversity. While criticisms have been levelled at this definition of beauty when held as an absolute value, as an explanation of Bach’s contrapuntal practice it is highly suggestive. This desire for art to imitate nature in its perfection motivated Bach’s musical project throughout his career and is particularly evident in his treatment of counterpoint: ‘[c]haracteristic of Bach’s manner of composing is a way of elaborating the musical ideas so as to penetrate the material deeply and exhaustively.’ Bach’s maximization of thematic coherence, harmonic richness, and contrapuntal complexity can be thus understood as having a theological rationale. This rationale perhaps best fits the music with which there is no accompanying text to direct one’s interpretation of the musical figures, and is particularly relevant in grasping the aesthetic behind specifically contrapuntal projects like The Art of Fugue.
2) Music designed to move the Affections towards God
Ever since the discovery of Bach’s personal Bible commentary, the so-called ‘Calov Bible’, it has often been noted that Bach’s music appears to have been intended as an expression of a specifically, and personally-held, Lutheran faith. The implications of this in seeking an informed speculation of Bach’s theological views of music are significant. For the indications in Luther’s writings are not only that he saw music as inherently theological on a number of different levels, but specifically that he saw music as having a role in moving the believer’s affections towards God, and thus an ability to strengthen the believer’s faith in Christ. Combining this insight with the commonly-observed (though not unchallenged) evidence of the Baroque Affektenlehre (or ‘Doctrine of the Affections’) in Bach’s music, it can be seen how often Bach’s sacred music (chorale-based or liturgically-intended; often both) makes its spiritual utility felt through its projection of a relevant and (sometimes) dominant affekt. This primary affekt is then projected through the musical material, itself often consisting of harmonic and motivic workings-out of a single inventio, or dominant musical figure. In the organ music, this notion is perhaps most useful in approaching the chorale preludes—a genre that covers many of the organ works—where in many cases the background text, where clear, often illuminates both the general affekt of a given prelude, and the specificity of particular harmonies and figurations that have been chosen to illustrate it.
Conclusion – Bach, Beauty and Belief
Although the label of ‘The Complete Organ Works of Bach’ for the corpus is a misnomer, there are still many varied ways in which to view it coherently; theological aesthetics is just one example. Theology and aesthetics combine throughout Bach’s organ music, uniting them as works that project a Christian Lutheran worldview through their specifically musical beauty. In this they serve as exemplars of the theology of another towering eighteenth-century Christian intellect, whose published thought also combined beauty and belief with an emphasis on the affections of the believer: the American pastor Jonathan Edwards, with whom Bach has once been compared. Edwards placed the affections-of-the-heart at the centre of his definition of genuine Christian experience, and thus taught that moving them God-ward was the primary aim of any means of grace in the church, whether preaching or music. As examples of Edward’s affection-driven theology in practice, the organ works of Bach clearly cohere in their common ability to promote both belief and beauty, or perhaps more accurately, belief through beauty.
The ‘Neumeister’ Chorales
The so-called ‘Neumeister’ chorales are a collection of chorale preludes, attributed to J S Bach, that were found in a manuscript that had been copied and compiled by Johann Gottfried Neumeister and discovered at Yale University in the 1980s. It was published in 1983 for the Bach tercentenary, and subsequently given the name ‘Neumeister’. Neumeister was a pupil of G A Sorge, possibly making the collection for his own purposes as an organist. There are eighty-two pieces in the collection, and thirty-eight attributed to Bach (Williams 2003 p.541). Wolff identifies the influences of Pachelbel, J M Bach and J C Bach in these pieces attributed to J S Bach—strengthening the case of their authenticity by reflecting the actual musical influences on the young Bach (Wolff 2001 p.49). It seems Bach would typically take a model from one of these other composers, and expand it; thus these pieces reflect Bach’s musical youth, perhaps dating from around 1700, while Bach was a teenager at Ohrdruf.
There are certain striking features about the collection worthy of note. The chorales often show a remarkable compression of various compositional techniques in concise and short forms, so anticipating the later Orgelbüchlein collection, as well as the chorale partitas. The preludes are also often in two parts, and contain an unusual diversity of cadences: ‘every piece ends in a different way’ (Wolff 2001 p.49).
BWV770 Chorale variations on “Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen”
The text of BWV770 concerns the awakening of a sinner’s guilty conscience, and the Christian hope of trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation. It is given in ten parts (‘Partitas’), the first is the chorale. Partita I, the chorale, projects real gravitas through its texture and rhythmic animation. Partita II is set in a harpsichord texture, with a walking bass and a simple ornamented right hand. Partita III develops this with right-hand semiquavers, in the style of a violin obligato. Partita IV changes the texture to that of broken chords, with striking turns of harmony and melody and the chorale soaring over the top. Partita V features running semiquavers in the left hand below the chorale, and Partita VI a more virtuosic violinistic right hand, with bigger leaps and broken chords. Partita VII is marked by a change of metre, before striking right-hand figurations in demisemiquavers in Partita VIII. The final two partitas are longer and weightier. Partita IX is in a triple-time, with charming echo effects, and Partita X an ‘Allegro’, also with echo effects that perhaps reference the French Dialogue tradition, as well as speed and metre changes, and some challenging shifts of register on the keyboards.
BACH NEUMEISTER CHORALES
BWV719 Chorale prelude on “Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich”
Neumeister Chorale No 1
The text of the first Neumeister chorale celebrates joy in the birth of Christ, and in Mary being chosen to be his mother. The melody is 15th century, and Bach’s setting seems only to use some of the chorale. He gives a fugal treatment of the first two lines, with seven entries. A cadence near the half-way point brings semiquaver runs, and there follows a fugal, though less strict, treatment of the second chorale line. The final snapshot of melody in the soprano is the second line, in normal rhythm. Peter Williams points out that the semiquaver flourish happens at the Golden Section (Williams 2003 p.459).
BWV1090 Chorale prelude on “Wir Christenleut”
Neumeister Chorale No 2
BWV1090 features a chorale with another Christmas text, rejoicing in the birth of Christ. This joy (‘Freud’) seems to be the affect projected by the first part of this three-part setting, with its running semiquavers underneath the chorale melody. The latter sections are marked by changes of metre, from duple to triple time. The triple time coincides with the text highlighting redemption, and the change back to duple surely highlights the text’s phrase ‘glaubet fest’ (‘believes firmly’). The effect of these changes is ingenious over such a short piece.
BWV1091 Chorale prelude on “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist”
Neumeister Chorale No 3
This is a beautifully unfolding prelude, with the chorale at the top of the texture. The effectiveness of the setting is generated by a slow-moving counterpoint and driven by sustained rhythmic syncopations. Bach maintains the modal quality of the chorale’s melody in the prelude’s harmony, a fact that accounts for the often unexpected harmonic shifts (Williams 2003 p.546).
BWV1092 Chorale prelude on “Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf”
Neumeister Chorale No 4
BWV1092 features a striking opposition between fast (semiquaver and demisemiquaver) embellishments that underpin the chorale, and the four-part hymn-like texture of conventional chorale harmonization. It is tempting to see in this contrast a symbolic reference to the spheres of the earth (with its ‘struggle’) and eternity (with its ‘rest’) that is central to the text of the chorale’s first verse. In any case, the musical result of this opposition is a catalogue of chorale embellishments, creating almost a miniature chorale partita. Note the characteristic echo effects at the start and end of the chorale, the latter playing around with the inflection of the chorale melody’s D/D sharp to provide a sense of momentum to the final embellished cadence.
BWV1093 Chorale prelude on “Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen”
Neumeister Chorale No 5
This beautiful miniature contains a wealth of material in its short span (37 bars). Its text is a Passion hymn by J Heermann, famously found in both the St John and St Matthew Passions. The melancholy affect is created by the slow-moving counterpoint, spiced with suspensions and chromatic lines. The first half of the setting is slow, containing nothing faster than a quaver, but gradually semiquavers are introduced that energise the second half of the prelude, eventually spinning out in imitation. Note the final notes of the melody are filled in chromatically, highlighting the poignancy that is at the heart of both the theology and the music of the prelude.
BWV1094 Chorale prelude on “O Jesu, wie ist dein Gestalt”
Neumeister Chorale No 6
In BWV1094, Bach sets the chorale phrases above three-part counterpoint that also provides interludes between the chorale’s phrases. The harmony runs along gently in quavers and occasional semiquavers (set in dactyl figures—long, short, short). Some chromaticisms in the second half intensify the passion-feel of the text.
BWV1095 Chorale prelude on “O Lamm Gottes unschuldig”
Neumeister Chorale No 7
‘O Lamm Gottes’ is set in three time, like the setting of the same text in the Eighteen Leipzig Chorales. It is also set in a similar metre and key to another setting of the same text, BWV1085. The Neumeister prelude features a long interlude that precedes the repeat of the chorale’s first line, and a particularly beautiful final cadence.
BWV1096 Chorale Prelude on “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht / Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ”
Neumeister Chorale No 8
The unique feature of this setting is its structure. Though composed as a seamless whole, there are really two sections. The first consists of a fugal treatment of the first line of the chorale melody, with a total of seven statements. It is not until later—the second section—that the chorale melody is heard in its entirety, played at the top of the texture in steady minims. The melody is associated with at least two possible texts. Note that the majority of this prelude is ascribed to Pachelbel.
BWV1097 Chorale prelude on “Ehre sei dir Christe, der du leidest Not”
Neumeister Chorale No 9
BWV1097 starts with a fugal introduction before the chorale melody is heard, which takes the first line of the chorale and treats it fugally. Each line of the chorale is then treated separately, through to the first of the three ‘Kyries’ at the end. Each line in the soprano is heralded by the same line heard in the bass.
BWV1098 Chorale prelude on “Wir glauben all an einen Gott”
Neumeister Chorale No 10
BWV1098 takes the melody of the chorale, a creed text that appears in other settings in Bach’s oeuvre, and treats it freely and fugally, the notes of the melody not appearing in real clarity before the prelude’s ending. There are some similarities between this Neumeister prelude and those found in Clavierübung III (Williams 2003 p.552).
BWV1099 Chorale prelude on “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir”
Neumeister Chorale No 11
BWV1099 features a canon between the soprano and bass. Note that the chorale melody set is not the same as that of the other ‘Aus tiefer’ settings by Bach. Successive sections of the melody are treated differently in the prelude: canon with counterpoint; change to compound time (12/8); running quavers below single statements in the soprano; back to simple time (4/4); a motivic breakdown of the melody in descending thirds. The final cadence is marked by a dramatic change to ‘Adagio’, but an increase of the rhythmic division to semiquavers.
BWV1100 Chorale prelude on “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”
Neumeister Chorale No 12
This prelude features running semiquaver lines as an introduction. The chorale enters as the top part, with the two lower semiquaver lines continuing throughout. The text expresses faith in Christ, perhaps the word ‘turn’ (‘steht’) lying behind the turning quality of the semiquaver line, which also traces and fills in the intervals of the chorale. Scholars have suggested other possibilities for the composer other than Bach: Walther, or a student of Pachelbel like J H Buttstedt.
BWV714a Chorale prelude on “Ach Gott und Herr”
Neumeister Chorale No 13
This is a setting that, like others, manages to combine a large variety of musical ideas in a short span. Opening with an introduction of long semibreves, the metre eventually increases to crotchets and, after the chorale enters, occasional quavers. The chorale is heard in canon between the soprano and tenor. The musical events are perhaps explained by the text of the chorale, a lament to human sinfulness. Particularly, the ‘gross und schwer’ (‘great and heavy’) quality of the sin is reflected in the anguished, slow moving, and chordal (‘heavy’) introduction, and generally muted affect of the whole.
BWV742 Chorale prelude on “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder”
Neumeister Chorale No 14
In BWV742, the chorale is hidden in the richly ornamented line, sectioned off from a remarkable introduction by a ‘poco adagio’ marking. The ornamented chorale line continues in patterns of descending sequences and semiquavers, marked by the suspirans figure (three fast notes following a rest). The affect is one of stylized grief, expressed in writing in the Passion settings by Bach.
BWV1101 Chorale prelude on “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt”
Neumeister Chorale No 15
This is a contrapuntal setting, in four parts, the main musical material of the pre-chorale introduction marked by the chorale’s melody. The text explored Adam’s original sin in the Garden of Eden. The musical figures used throughout appear common-enough, resulting in a prelude that, as Williams notes, ‘has no obvious Affekt’ (Williams 2003 p.555), perhaps surprisingly for a text that is given very different and expressive treatment elsewhere (see the setting in the Orgelbüchlein, BWV637).
BWV1102 Chorale prelude on “Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ”
Neumeister Chorale No 16
This prelude is written as a pair, the first half of which is a bicinium: an attractive and lively two-part setting, with fragmented ornamented solo line above continuous bass line. There is lively rhythmic interest throughout, especially in the second half, which is an ‘Allegro’ consisting of luthé broken chord patterns, rather like music written for harpsichord, with the chorale melody now disguised.
BWV1103 Chorale prelude on “Erhalt uns Herr, bei deinem Wort”
Neumeister Chorale No 17
BWV1103 features three-part counterpoint that eventually grows to four parts, the chorale melody informing the counterpoint, which is fugal in style. Peter Williams highlights that the chorale’s influence is mostly limited to the first line of melody, apart from the end, where the fourth line is heard (Williams 2003 p.557). Striking throughout is the melody, and resulting harmonic potential, of the opening of the chorale melody, with its yearning melodic shape.
BWV737 Chorale prelude on “Vater unser im Himmelreich”
Neumeister Chorale on No 18
This setting is written as an allabreve, denoting slow-moving dense counterpoint throughout, with the chorale melody heard at the top of the texture. BWV737 survives in two copies, one by Walther, the other in Yale under the alternative title ‘Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott’. The affect of the setting is sombre, the harmony often unyielding yet beautiful, and the compass of the organ low; yet the chorale soars over the top.
BWV1104 Chorale prelude on “Wenn dich Unglück tut greifen an”
Neumeister Chorale No 19
This prelude is harmonically ambiguous, a modal setting, with the key unclear at the start, yet full of rhythmic and harmonic interest. Each phrase of the chorale is treated consecutively, with each successive phrase providing material for the lower three parts of counterpoint. The affect is melancholic, reflecting the text of the chorale: the faithfulness of God toward the troubled and suffering believer.
BWV1105 Chorale prelude on “Jesu, meine Freude”
Neumeister Chorale No 20
BWV1105 follows the structure of the chorale with minimum contrapuntal development or embellishment. The first half is energised by dactyl figures, and the second by the repetition of a rhythmic figure (long-short), with some runs to connect the phrases, as though the prelude were to be played as an introduction to a chorale in a service. The overall rhetorical effect of this setting is very striking, especially in some of the harmony of the final bars.
BWV1106 Chorale prelude on “Gott ist mein Heil, mein Hilf und Trost”
Neumeister Chorale No 21
In this setting, the chorale melody is dissolved into a stream of semiquavers, though the bassline preserves the chorale’s harmonic integrity. The writing is violinistic, reminiscent of Bach’s more virtuosic chorale partita movements, as well as some of the setting from the Orgelbüchlein, especially ‘Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottes-Sohn’, BWV601.
BWV1107 Chorale prelude on “Jesu, meines Lebens Leben”
Neumeister Chorale No 22
BWV1107 is another two-part prelude, with each part of nearly equal length. The first section preserves the chorale melody in crotchets through its initial four phrases; the second half does so for the remaining two phrases, heard in the pedals above a fantasia-like upper part that moves from duple to triple time.
BWV1108 Chorale prelude on “Als Jesus Christus in der Nacht”
Neumeister Chorale No 23
Though a two-part prelude, the second part of this setting is a variation of the first, so the chorale melody is heard twice throughout. In both parts, the chorale is accompanied by suspirans figures, with the rhythms assigned to the second part representing a doubling of the speed. The pedal enters for the final phrase of the chorale, as if to underline the ending.
BWV1109 Chorale prelude on “Ach Gott, tu dich erbarmen”
Neumeister Chorale No 24
BWV1109 is set intricately, with fugal episodes interspersing the chorale melody. The ambiguous modality of the original melody is reflected in the prelude, and its initial three repeated notes give impetus to the three-time metre of the setting. The text’s request for mercy on God’s repentant people can perhaps be heard in some of the more chromatic inflections of the harmony.
BWV1110 Chorale prelude on “O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort”
Neumeister Chorale No 25
BWV1110 is given a three-part setting, in compound time, a reflection of the original triple metre of the chorale. The chorale can be heard at the top of the texture, with lively, imitative counterpoint beneath, which is built from the notes of the chorale melody. Note the sudden introduction of semiquavers about half-way through.
BWV1111 Chorale prelude on “Nun lasset uns den Leib begraben”
Neumeister Chorale No 26
This prelude is set in a four-part texture, the first two phrases of the melody correspond to a long first part in four-time, with imitative, even fugal, writing based on the chorale, accompanied by an attractive variety of rhythmic figures. The second, shorter, part of the prelude is based on the final two chorale phrases, in three-time, maintaining the contrapuntal imitation, but freer - note the striking two-part scale that can be heard before the final bars, surely a musical reflection of the text which refers to the ‘rising up’ of the believer’s body, buried in anticipation of the Judgement Day.
BWV1112 Chorale prelude on “Christus, der ist mein Leben”
Neumeister Chorale No 27
BWV1112 is a simple setting, with the chorale phrases treated imitatively in a four-part texture. The impetus is driven by dactyl figures, also perhaps a simple musical reflection of ‘joy’ (‘Freud’) in the text, heard in the little interjections of semiquavers throughout.
BWV1113 Chorale prelude on “Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt”
Neumeister Chorale No 28
This prelude sets the chorale in a four-part texture, marked by echo effects, and passages of four-part counterpoint alternating with chordal, chorale harmonizations. Williams suggests that the structure of the setting points to its possible use liturgically, the melody lines given simple harmony, and each line heralded by a short interlude (Williams 2003 p.566).
BWV1114 Chorale prelude on “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut”
Neumeister Chorale No 29
BWV1114 is set in a darker flat tonality, after that of the original chorale. This is reflective of the text of chorale, a pained expression of a troubled conscience. The melody is given expressive treatment throughout, with ornamentation in the right hand over a gentle two-part accompaniment, and throughout there are running semiquavers to give impetus. Yet the text’s affect is never far away: even the extensive semiquaver passages in the second half of the prelude seem tinged with sadness.
BWV1115 Chorale prelude on “Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr”
Neumeister Chorale No 30
This prelude is in two distinct sections, with the first section stricter in time and rhythm than the second and is rhythmically driven by suspirans figures. The second section briefly moves from a duple to a compound time (12/8), the chorale melody embellished by running semiquavers.
BWV1116 Chorale prelude on “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan”
Neumeister Chorale No 31
BWV1116 is through-composed, with each successive line of the chorale treated in sequence, rather than appearing in two sections as so many of the Neumeister chorales. Again, the counterpoint underneath the chorale (which is heard again in the soprano) is derived from the chant. There is rhythmic progression through the piece, reminiscent of other Bach preludes, with quavers animated into semiquavers towards the end.
BWV1117 Chorale prelude on “Alle Menschen müssen sterben”
Neumeister Chorale No 32
BWV1117 is a remarkable setting, whose chorale is heard initially in the tenor, the middle of the texture, in long notes, but later expressed in semiquaver embellishments. As the setting continues, these become virtuosic demisemiquavers, with a dramatic adagio ending in thick chords.
BWV957 Chorale prelude on “Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt”
Neumeister Chorale No 33
BWV957 appears in two versions, one with the chorale, which appears following a fugue, and the other with only the fugue (BWV957/1). The fugue subject, a long run of semiquavers, disguises the chorale melody, and is written in a similar style to an invention with the entries of the main material imitated at octaves. Following the fugue, the chorale can be heard in full, harmonised in four parts. The text of the chorale was written by a previous Leipzig Thomas cantor, J H Schein (Williams 2003 p.536).
BWV1118 Chorale prelude on “Werde munter, mein Gemüte”
Neumeister Chorale No 34
BWV1118 is set with the chorale accompanied by broken chord figurations and, like other Neumeister chorales, features a change of metre—the standard duple time (4/4) broken up with a section in compound time (12/8). The text concerns a prayer for God’s protection, and the first line of text highlights the ‘cheerful’ (‘munter’) affect of the setting that can be heard in the running semiquavers throughout.
BWV1119 Chorale prelude on “Wie nach einer Wasserquelle”
Neumeister Chorale No 35
A setting in the stile antico, with long, sustained counterpoint in three parts, though energised by quaver figures throughout. The text is probably based on Psalm 42, a cry from the believer for the presence of God, projecting a melancholy that is heard in the affect of the prelude.
BWV1120 Chorale prelude on “Christ, der du bist der helle Tag”
Neumeister Chorale No 36
A striking setting, with echo effects, and textures ranging from block chords to more intricate counterpoint. The pedals are marked to enter half-way through, with the chorale in long notes creating some beautiful harmonies with the upper parts, and providing another element of contrast within the setting. Thus, the final chorale acts as a microcosm for the stylistic and textural variety that stands through the entire Neumeister collection.
George Parsons ï¿½ 2017
1* Principal 16
2* Octave 8
3 Hohlflöte 8
4* Octave 4
5 Spitzflöte 4
6* Quinte 2 ⅔
7* Superoctave 2
8 Sesquialter III
9 Cornett IV
10 Mixtur IV-V
11 Trompete 8
12 Vox Humana 8
13* Principal 8
14 Gedackt 8
15 Octave 4
16 Rohrflöte 4
17 Octave 2
18 Gemshorn 2
19 Larigot 1 ⅓
20 Sesquialter II
21 Scharf III
22 Dulcian 8
23 Viola 8
24 Suavial 8
25 Rohrflöte 8
26 Principal 4
27 Gedacktflöte 4
28 Nasard 2 ⅔
29 Doublette 2
30 Terz 1 ⅗
31 Mixtur IV
32 Fagott 16
33 Trompete 8
34* Principal 16
35 Subbass 16
36 Octavbass 8
37 Bourdon 8
38 Octave 4
39 Mixtur V
40 Posaune 16
41 Trompete 8
42 Trompete 4
(* Father Smith ranks)
Signum Classics ï¿½ 2017