About this work
This is a relatively early work, probably written during Bach's first years in Arnstadt, where he served as organist at the Neue Kirche from 1703 to 1707. The composer wrote another version of this chorale fantasia in 1708, identified as BWV 736, that is a somewhat livelier piece and features a quite different approach to the chorale tune. In both versions of "Valet will ich dir geben" (I want to wish you farewell), Bach attempts to look at death as a joyful deliverance from this life; thus the music imparts a mood of triumph and a sense of liberation. The chorale tune is well known and becomes quite recognizable, not so much in its initial guises here, but when its first half is taken up in the lower middle register against a hail of contrapuntal activity. The remainder of the theme is completed in the upper ranges, after which Bach continues his imaginative and always lively varying of the material. As the work progresses, the sense of triumph grows while many of the harmonies and even some thematic activity sink to the lower ranges to create a now-curious mixture of feelings -- that death is approaching, but that it is a happy and welcome event. This chorale fantasia typically has a duration of four minutes.