Secrets of Organ Playing Contest Week 137 Submission--Chorale prelude on Meine Seele erhebt den Herren BWV 648 by J.S. Bach
Todays submission is Johann Sebastian Bach's Chorale prelude on Meine Seele erhebt den Herren BWV 648. I encountered this chorale for the first time in undergraduate school in music history as a series of preludes on the Magnificat chants based on the ninth tone, or the Pilgrim's tone. Bach's setting seems pretty straightforward. It has a three part imitative texture between the pedals and one of the manuals (in this case, and 8 and 4' flute on the swell with Subbass and flute 8' in the pedals). Once that texture has been established, the first half of the Magnificat chant is heard on the second manual (in this case, a cornet built on the Great) while the three part texture is again reestablished. The process is then repeated with the second half of the Magnificat chant. One thing to listen for is the repeated melodic fragments that appear in the accompaniment parts. A second thing to listen to is how chromatic this accompaniment is. Under the straightforward diatonic chorale tune, the accompaniment appears to slip and slide all over the place. Finally, there is the brief "introduction" and "coda" that frame the work. Played only in the pedals as a single line of melody, the introduction appears to be setting up the piece as a Chaconne (where a single melodic line is repeated over and over which allows for variations on this line) with a very chromatic basis. This doesn't happen: even though the accompaniment left hand begins to repeat the bassline, it changes to meet the unfolding of the piece. Bafflingly, the pedal part returns at the end as though to say "We have returned home." Enjoy!