No.21 Jesus Christus unser Heiland

Johann Sebastian Bach

No.21 Jesus Christus unser Heiland


About this work

This fugue is one of 21 chorale preludes appearing in Bach's Deutsche Orgelmesse (German Mass for Organ). At the beginning of this large work, the composer placed a lengthy Prelude and Fugue in E flat major and ended with a substantial fugue in the same key. The 21 preludes, then, were paired up in "grande" and "petite" versions to form the heart of the work and represent parts of the Lutheran mass. The Gloria varies from this pattern, having one grande and two petite versions. This BWV 689 rendition of "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland" (Jesus Christ, Our Savior) is the petite version of the mass' Communion and is, for once, longer, though not grander, than the grande version (BWV 688). This petite fugue opens with its theme, a mixture of the angelic and mysterious, played in the middle ranges. It turns somewhat brighter and more serene when it rises on the keyboard, but later suggests a darker undercurrent when the left hand descends to the lower ranges. Not that the music ever sounds sinister or threatening: this is Bach clearly spinning out music of a sacred nature, but also divulging a more ponderous and deep manner. As usual, his contrapuntal writing is imaginative and full of rich detail. The moderate pacing and slightly mysterious character of the work impart a somewhat expressive ambivalence here, giving the music greater dimension. The piece lasts about five minutes.