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Sunday’s Worship Music

Sunday, September 23

Organ Voluntary
Fantasia in G minor BWV 542 – Johann Sebastian Bach

Adagio et dolce (Trio Sonata III, BWV 527) – Bach (8:30)
Oh how amiable are Thy dwellings – Ralph Vaughan Williams (11:00)

THIS MORNING’S ORGAN VOLUNTARY: As with many musicians of his time, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) sought employment either in the church or in the service of a royal court throughout his career. In 1717, Bach found his salary doubled and the age of his employer halved when he became a court musician for young Prince Leopold of Cöthen, an enthusiastic musical royal who especially appreciated the arts and who even eschewed court protocol by often performing with his musicians. Some of Bach’s Cöthen years were among the happiest of his life. Yet, 298 years ago last month, in 1720, when Bach returned to Cöthen after a holiday in Bohemia with the royal court, he discovered that his wife (and second cousin) Maria Barbara had died suddenly the month before on July 5th, leaving him as a single father with four young children (he and Maria Barbra had three other children who died in infancy); her funeral and burial had both taken place during his absence. This morning’s Organ Voluntary was composed in the wake of that tragedy. As a cry of anguish, its searching quality, gripping intensity and spice of dissonance present a character unique in Bach’s output, and it is thought that this music may be the first example of modulation from one key center to another by means of chromaticism, an enormous, groundbreaking stride in the development of Western music. Many consider Bach’s Fantasia in G minor to be the ne plus ultra of his free (non-chorale (non-hymn) based) organ compositions.