About this work
This chorale prelude probably dates to the early years of Bach's service in Weimar as organist under the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar (1708-1717). It is also called a fughetta and, like the composer's other chorale preludes, is based on a chorale theme. Generally, this work is placed in a set of seven works (BWV 696, 697, 698, 699, 701, 703, and 704) from varying manuscripts whose common feature is their prelude-like status to the actual chorale itself: Bach intended them to set the mood for the singing of the chorale during church service. This work, "Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her" (From Heaven Above, to Earth I Come), is a bright, lively work of modest proportions that lasts about a minute-and-a-half. It begins with the chorale theme stated at a very deliberate pace in the upper register. Only after its first notes are heard, however, Bach begins the second (contrapuntal) voice, also in the upper register, but at a much livelier pace. The mood is joyous throughout and has an angelic, almost childlike manner in its bubbly sonorities, where mostly upper registers of the manuals are used without the pedal.