BACH: Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BWV 651

FULL POWER!!! The overwhelming opening of Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, performed by Leo van Doeselaar for All of Bach, refers almost literally to the opening lines of Acts 2 from the Bible, which say about Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost fully came, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.

The underlying melody, which Bach used for various Pentecost cantatas, is heard in the pedal, but only after the drone of a sustained note (a ‘pedal point’) has resounded in our ears.

Then – with short interruptions – we are presented with the whole chorale melody, which remains a beacon of tranquillity in the midst of the notes tumbling over one another in the upper parts. As in the much shorter original version of this chorale, which most probably originated in Weimar, Bach imaginatively draws on many different compositions. He does so, for instance, in his fervent illustration of the commotion of ‘speaking in tongues’, to which the words of the chorale also refer. Finally, all the turbulence ends in a short but powerful hallelujah.

18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle, BWV 651-668

In the last ten years of his life, Bach gathered together and completed a series of chorale arrangements, presumably planning to have them published, just like the third part of the Clavier-Übung in 1739. It concerns a selection of his compositions from much earlier years when he was working as an organist in Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. The collection became known as the 18 Choräle or Leipziger Choräle. Incidentally, 18 Choräle is a misleading title, as the set originally comprised 17 pieces. The eighteenth, Vor deinen Thron tret ich (BWV 668), was added to Bach’s manuscript later on.

Recorded for the project All of Bach on October 21st 2014 at St Catharine’s Church, Hamburg.

One response to “BACH: Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BWV 651”

  1. Wow! Bach really knew a lot about music and composition! It’s amazing how he knew how to play music that relates to different passages of the Bible! Bach is a true genius composer!


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