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BACH'S CHORAL PRELUDES
Played by LEONARD WARNER
From St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate
Alle Monschen müssen sterben (All men must die) 0 Lamm Gottes , unsehuldig (0 Lamb of God unspotted)
Das alto Jahr vergangen ist (The Old Year is passed away)
Jesu, moine Freude (Josu, my gladness)
Wir glauben all' an oinen Gott, Schöpfer (We nl) believe in one God, the Creator)
THE Choralo Preludes to be played today offer a number of specially interesting examples of Bach's use of rhythmic and melodic devices very much in the way in which Wagner, to quote the best known modern instance, employs motives to identify his characters and the chief, incidents and themes of his dramas.
Among Bach's most characteristic motives is one which he uses for grief of an exalted order, and it is often made up of a little phrase in which two notes are bound, a kind of sighing figure. It is hoard in a simple but very expressive form in the Chorale Prelude, '0 Lamm Gottes , unschuldig' ('0 Lamb of God, unspotted '), the second of the five to be played this evening This Chorale Prelude is one of the few in which Bach illustrates almost the whole course of the text. As a rule ho is content to seize on some leading idea in the words of the hymn, and-to enlarge upon that, but the three verses of this hymn were evidently all in his mind as he composed the Prelude. The mood of the first' two verses is mainly a prayer for compassion, but in the third a deeper grief makes its way into the music where the words ' or else must we despair.' At the very end where the hymn sings of peace and heavenly messengers, the Prelude finishes with an ascending cadence in a mood of real joy.
The text of the hymn on which the first of this evening's Preludes is founded, ' Alle Menschen müssen sterben,' means ' All men must die,' so that it may seem at first sight strange that Bach uses in it ono of his motives of gladness. What Bach no doubt had in mind was the line which tells of resurrection and the great glory that awaits those who love God.
The third of the Preludes, 'Das alte Jahr vergangen ist,' ' Tho Old Year is passed away,' again uses a motive like that of ' '0 Lamb of God ' ; the whole Prelude is invested with a sense of melancholy.
A motive of striving and restlessness is the basis of 'Jesu, meine Freude' (' Jesu, my gladness ') ; Bach is picturing the agitated soul as it seeks for the Saviour.
' Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, Schopfer
(' We all believe in one God, Creator ') is one of the big Choral Preludes, almost of the dimensions of a Fantasia. In essence it is a very simple, almost childlike expression of Bach's own simple faith.
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