About this work
This Chorale prelude for organ is one of 21 such works that Bach framed with a large opening Prelude and Fugue and a closing Fugue, both in the key of E flat major, to form his Deutsche Orgelmesse (German Mass for Organ). This BWV 687 prelude is the petite version of the BWV 686 grande "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" (In Deep Distress I Cry to Thee). They are two different works, though the listener will notice they use the same theme and share other compositional features. Here they represent Penitence in the Lutheran mass, following Baptism (BWV 684) and preceding Communion (BWV 688). While this is the so-designated petite, or little version of the piece, it is hardly a simple distillation of the ideas in the grande version. Moreover, it is two-thirds the length of its larger sibling, whose duration is about five or six minutes. Both pieces are filled with contrapuntal complexity. Here, the serene chorale theme solemnly begins and progresses through many subtle changes in this five-part fugal treatment. The grande version may offer more grandiosity and dynamism, but this petite rendition has its modest subtleties, not least of which is the sense the music is slowly and deftly evolving toward some epiphanic moment of serenity.
Curated by Femke Steketee, Saxophonist