No.46 Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig

Johann Sebastian Bach

No.46 Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig


About this work

This is the last of the so-titled 45 chorales of the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book). Bach was the Court organist in Weimar for the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar from 1708 to 1717, the time during which he composed these works. In this series, the composer was likely filling some duty relating to church service, but he also was serving an educational function here for organ students, he revealed. Yet the music can, of course, be enjoyed apart from its church or educational associations. All the chorale preludes in the set are short and this final one, lasting about three-quarters of a minute, is among the briefest. It presents a bright theme in the soprano ranges, with busy accompaniment from the left hand that both reinforces the thematic fabric itself and adds vital contrapuntal elements. The chorale theme is played twice in its complete form, varying somewhat the second time, especially in its accompaniment. On its last appearance, the theme is only partially heard, its character seeming in the midst of great transition when the seemingly abortive ending comes. The music here, as in all these chorale preludes, abounds in rich ideas and detail and it is no wonder that Max Reger, Albert Schweitzer, and others expressed astonishment at their musical richness.