J.S. Bach, "Jesus Joy of Man's Desiring"
Transcription and Fingering: Renato Bellucci
Because of their simple, strong qualities, chorale (choire) melodies are well suited for use as themes for other musical works. Several types of pieces for organ have chorale melodies as their basis. Chorale melodies are often found in cantatas (cantare = sing) as well. Originally the word cantata meant any sizable work, sacred or secular, that was sung. By the time of Bach, the cantata had become a short oratorio, with an instrumental accompaniment, arias, recitatives, and choruses. The cantata is much shorter and is written to be performed in a worship service, not a concert. Bach was so universal in his composing style, that his sacred music fits the contemporary concert scene perfectly. Furthermore, it generally incorporates a chorale melody into some of its sections. There was plenty of time in the service for a twenty-minute cantata in Bach's church in Leipzig: The principal Sunday service began at seven in the morning and lasted until about noon! In addition, there were three other short services on Sunday, as well as daily services and special religious celebrations.
Altogether, Leipzig churches required fifty eight cantatas each year and other types of music for special occasions. During most of his career in Leipzig Bach composed about one cantata per month. About 200 of the total 300 cantatas he created have been preserved. Bach's Cantata No. 147 is One of Bach's better-known cantatas: Cantata No. 147, "Jesus Joy of man's desiring". The text, is based on verses from the Holy Gospel. The cantata is divided into seven sections, with the chorale melody appearing in different sections (I will show where in the score) The opening section is a chorus, and it is the longest and most complex section of the cantata. There is a driving, uneven rhythmic figure contrasted with a counter melody played by the violins. The chorale melody itself appears in long notes in the soprano. As these notes are sung, the alto, tenor, and bass sing contrasting musical lines in contrapuntal style. The orchestra plays an important role. More on Bach, the master, here
cantata [kahn-TAH-tah]: comes from the Italian word "cantare," meaning "to sing" This indicates that cantatas always used voices. Many were written for specific feast days in the Lutheran Church calendar.
chorale [kore-AL]: the main Lutheran contribution to church music; these were simple pieces sung in German, intended for the congregation (not a professional choir) to sing. As a result, the melody is simple, step-wise, limited in range, and uses simple rhythms. Chorales were often accompanied by the organ, or sung in parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), but always with a clear, simple melody in the soprano.
chorale cantata: a cantata which uses chorale melodies in some of the movements. The Christmas Oratorio actually is composed of six chorale cantatas.
Staff and Video 1
Following is the opening section which serves as a platform onto which the chorus will repeat the Gospel verses relentlessly. When playing the chords, see to it that all the notes, except for the soprano voice, sound even and rounded. You want to create a clear contrast between the different voices.
In the following version, which resembles the original idea Bach had in mind, you can hear the choir enter with the main melody reciting the Gospel verses.
Revision: December 19, 2012
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