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BWV 654, Schmucke Dich O Liebe Seele

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johannes Cruger's chorale Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele was first published in 1644; about 70 years later, J.S. Bach took the melody and shaped it into one of his most beloved chorale preludes for organ, BWV 654. Composed sometime during Bach's years in Weimar (1708-1717), the chorale prelude on Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele is nevertheless a member of a group of 17 -- formerly 18 -- pieces known as the "Leipzig" chorale preludes because it was in that city that Bach, in the last years of his life, revised them with an eye towards publication.

The prelude is intricately ornamented, as are about a third of the "Leipzig" chorale preludes: the melody, or cantus firmus, is given to the uppermost voice and decorated generously, while the alto and tenor voices proceed along similarly ornate lines and the bass moves unadorned in steady quarter notes. There is a beauty in the way that Bach introduces the cantus firmus with three plain dotted half notes -- the decision to make us believe, briefly, that the chorale melody will be given in straightforward tones makes the blossoming of ornaments at the end of the third bar all the more potent. The three lower voices continue their delicious running counterpoint between the isolated phraselets of the cantus firmus, culminating in a wonderful five-bar codetta that surrounds the final pedal point E flat of the cantus firmus.


Registration for this work is very simple: Gedeckt 8' on the Swell, Oboe 8' on the Great, Lieblich Gedeckt 16' on the pedal along with Cello 8' on the pedal to further develop the note lines played there I think quite well.

Tremulant engaged of course.

recorded/sequenced on the Reuter opus #822 pipe organ, May 18, 2007

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