Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (from the Orgelbüchlein), BWV 632
by Johann Sebastian Bach [playing time 0:56]  [Download the MP3]

J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
The greatest of them all
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"Who's your favorite composer?" is as tired a question as "Whomever I'm listening to at the moment" is an answer. If pressed, however, and with apologies to Ludwig, Wolfgang, Pyotr, and all the other greats, I would give the nod to Bach. His supreme blending of beauty, logic, and inventiveness has never been surpassed, and much of my avocational music-making is devoted to listening, learning, and making synthesized realizations of his music.

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Text - attr. Thomas Aquinas; Tune - Cantionale Germanicum, 1628; The Hymnal 1982 - #3, #310

Lord Jesus Christ, turn to us,

Send Your Holy Spirit to us.

Let Him rule us with help and grace,

And lead us on the path to truth.

The first phrase of this hymn is distinguished by its strong triadic nature (on the notes F-A-C-A). The F major triad permeates this brief chorale, with the voices proceeding canonically throughout.

In the third phrase, the bass follows the soprano not in augmentation as in BWV 607, but in diminution (in eighth notes to the soprano's quarters).

Canonic writing in Bach's sacred music is often interpreted as symbolizing adherence to religious teachings, and indeed the text of the hymn exhorts Christ to "lead us on the path to truth." All four voices follow the leader rigorously, but within the canonic framework, Bach constructs a truly charming piece. Listen for the alto and tenor conversing quietly in light guitar patches, while a soft trumpet and harpsichord proclaim the melody.

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