Musical contribution - November 2011

Es ist das Heil uns kommen her

Dear organist, We are not familiar with this chorale arrangement’s composer.  Some people did think it may have been Krebs, or perhaps another one of J.S. Bach’s students.  Even J.S. Bach himself was mentioned as a possible author. But we are unfortunately still unsure of the official origin of this piece of music.

The same thing applies to the melody too. The poet Paul Speratus (1484-1551) wrote the text for an existing melody. A melody which appears to have been generally spread and therefore has very old papers.

This hymn is also sung in the Netherlands and is included in the Songbook for Churches under number 344. Classified in the “Confession, baptism and communion” section.  But the song’s title will often also remind people of the Advent period, i.e.: “The Salvation which came down to us from heaven.” This is why we have opted to include this arrangement in the month of November. And should you have any (liturgical) objections where playing this “Choralvorspiel” in the month of December is concerned, then you will certainly have a beautiful composition to play during the remaining months of the year.

The rich ornamentation isn’t in the melody, but in the accompaniment. The melody is already evident in the first bar in one of the middle voices. And the same again in the 14th bar. There are quite a few different opinions where the registration is concerned. There are some ardent advocates of playing the entire piece on 1 manual with a plenum. Other organists prefer to heavily register the accompaniment and play the c.f. with a trumpet or cornet. Personally I marvel at this arrangement and my preference goes out to the tranquillity. Not necessarily because I don’t like the aforementioned versions, but more so because I feel the meditative element brings me closer to the meaning of the text. This is why I have opted to use a Nasard 3’ as the reed stop and to keep the accompaniment within soft flute stops.

Whatever your personal preference: tell your story with conviction. After all, that’s the most important part of getting your message across.

I would like to wish you an expectant Advent period.

André van Vliet

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