Sheet music

Musical contribution - March 2017

bladmuziek met potlood

Agnus Dei (J.S. Bach) (1685-1750)

Lent is upon us, and we turn once again to Passion music. This month we have music that is perfectly suited to this time. No original organ work, but - just like the 6 Schübler-Choräle - an aria arranged for organ. This aria doesn’t come from a Cantata, but from the Mass in B minor.

Experts argue that this is one of Bach’s better works. In any case, it was his last extensive work and it is certain that Bach never performed this composition himself.

The Agnus Dei is a reference to the “Lamb of God”, He who bore the sin of the world (qui tollis peccata mundi). We ask Him: “have mercy on us” (miserere nobis). I added the text to the notes so that you know how the sentences are structured. We encourage you to listen to an original version. You’ll notice that the tempos of the different versions vary widely from 4.10 to 6.38 - a very big difference indeed.

The melody is thus sung by a soloist. I personally chose a principal 8’ as leading stop, because of the melancholic character. Strings form the accompaniment in the aria. A single flute 8’ is a good option for this. In the pedal keyboard, it’s always advisable to open both a 16’ and an 8’. In some versions, you can hear a chest organ playing continuo. This was deliberately omitted in this arrangement so you get a beautiful trio.

With musical regards,

André van Vliet