Liester Jesu, wir sind her, BWV 633
Johann Sebastian Bach
Chorale preludes were the Baroque organist’s principal stock-in-trade in Protestant churches. These were usually pieces that introduced congregational singing or were used between verses. As such, working organists needed many of them, and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote more than 140 of them in widely varying styles and forms. He gathered 46 of them in Das Orgel-Büchlein (The Little Organ Book), almost all of them written in the years 1713-1715, during his period in Weimar. Superficially, the setting of “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier” (Dearest Jesus, we are here) is one of the simplest and most straightforward: once through with the chorale tune, very lightly embellished, in the top part. There are only three phrases, the first two identical, the third varied only in its first half. But those three phrases are of five bars each, the dense harmony is in five parts with an active bass, and Bach doubles the tune, sneaking it in as a two-part canon in the right hand. And when the chorale melody strikes out differently at the beginning of the third phrase, Bach overlaps it with the original opening notes.