Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Bach Motet. . .

I read something of Bach's Motet above.  It turns out that while the motet was a big deal in Palestrina’s day, by Bach’s time it was a neglected form and no longer contemporary.  After hearing Johann Crüger’s “Jesu Meine Freude,” a 17th-century motet with lyrics by Johann Franck, it seemed Bach put himself up for the task of constructing a motet worthy of the words. This is an unusual piece even for Bach.  Of Bach’s collection of 1,128 compositions, only six of them were motets and that says something.   But a tour de force it is. 

According to one writer, it is exceptional.  I concur.  Bach took Crüger’s piece and expanded on it to create a piece in 11 movements in which each movement alternates lyrics between Franck's words and the words of St. Paul from from the Epistle to the Romans. This complex juxtaposition of the texts is further enhanced by the very symmetry of Bach's music so that several of the movements actually mirror each other. 

It is thought that the hymn was composed to educate simultaneously about both choral singing and theology. In order to intensify the meaning behind each movement, Bach used a method called word painting. Also known as tone painting, this is a style in which the music attempts to reflect the meaning of the lyrics literally.

This is my gift to you today -- or rather Bach's.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  I must have listened to it a dozen times since I first heard of this exceptional recording.

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