Christ lag in Todesbanden

Johann Sebastian Bach

Christ lag in Todesbanden


About this work

Some musicologists have dated this work to 1708, but its origins are difficult to pin down with complete accuracy. It likely comes from either Bach's years in Arnstadt (1703 -- 1707) or to that longer period in Weimar (1708 -- 1717). In any event, Christ lag in Todes Banden (Christ lay in the bonds of death) is a masterful fantasia, not to be confused with the earlier (?1703) Chorale Prelude BWV 718 of the same title. Both works depict Christ lying in the sepulcher with somber music that grows more animated in preparation for the grander mood that comes with the Resurrection. The Fantasia BWV 695 here opens in a mood of solemnity with grayish tones from in the lower register, the music, however, gradually growing restless and developing energy, the upper register carrying most of the main thematic material. As usual, Bach is to be admired for his brilliant contrapuntal writing throughout and deft ability to capture the mood of this great scene. There is no action to imagine as Christ lies in the tomb, but only the growing sense that some grand religious event will happen. As the music deftly builds, it takes on a more epic manner. Still, this D minor work, with a duration of about three minutes, remains relatively subdued in its ending compared with the grander BWV 718 version.