About this work
This is the ninth of the 45 chorale preludes that comprise Bach's collection, Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), written when he served as Court organist under the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar. This work, Vom Himmel kam der Engel schar (From Heaven Came the Angels), is also the sixth of 11 chorale preludes that form the work's second section, "Christmas," which follows "Advent" (Nos. 1 - 3). As could be surmised, the Orgelbüchlein was designed to follow the life of Christ, though in its last section, "Glaubenslieder" (Songs of Faith), the works feature chorale themes relating to various religious subjects. This BWV 607 chorale prelude has a joyous, lively manner and certainly captures the "angelic" aspects in the title, especially in the runs up and down the keyboard. But those runs are not just atmospheric effects to simulate winged creatures or movement, but are a colorful contrapuntal element in Bach's intricate musical fabric here. The work lasts only a bit longer than a minute in typical performances, but with its multiple voices and deft keyboard writing, manages to present the ear with a feast of sonic layers that seem to unpeel something new on every hearing.