Sometimes lay people caricature the music of J.S. Bach as being dry and academic. However, his compositions actually explore the full range of human emotions from deep sadness (Passacaglia and Fugue for Organ in C Minor) to playful joy (Brandenburg concertos).
Bach's compositions are incredibly varied and defy categorization. His works include dizzying heights of mathematical complexity—The Art of Fugue—to lush melodies like his Air on the G String, to works such as the Chromatic Fantasy which approach a jazzy dissonance.
But by far Bach’s greatest legacy remains his Sunday morning worship music. During Bach's first five years at Leipzig he went through a frantic period in which he composed hundreds of sacred Cantatas, even though this was not required by his job description, and despite the fact that the Leipzig authorities were not always supportive of the projects. The cantatas were multi-movement works, sung by a choir and solo voices, to be used in worship on Sunday morning or feast days. They incorporated both the gospel reading for the day as well as the Lutheran hymn, which formed a thematic background to the entire work.
By the time Bach finished, he had given the church three complete annual cantata cycles, to be used in the liturgical cycle. In addition to being great musical achievements, many of the Cantatas articulate the beauty and exquisite sweetness of a relationship with Jesus. In the Cantata “Awake, A Voice is Calling”, there are two passionately intense duets between Jesus and the Soul:
The Soul: When are you coming, my Savior?
Jesus: I am coming, your portion.
The Soul: I am waiting with burning oil. Open the hall for the heavenly banquet.
Jesus: I am opening the hall for the heavenly banquet.
The Soul: Come, Jesus!
Jesus: I am coming; come, sweet soul!
Then, a little later in the work, Jesus and the soul are united and celebrate this with an even more intimate exchange:
The Soul: My friend is mine,
Jesus: And I am his.
Jesus and the Soul: Nothing shall separate this love.
The Soul: I will feed on heaven’s roses with you,
Jesus: You shall feed with me on heaven’s roses
Jesus and the Soul: Where abundant joy and bliss will be found.
To learn more about Bach's music and his relationship with Jesus, read my article, "The Devotion of J.S. Bach".
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