About this work
This setting of "Christ, der du bist der helle Tag" (Christ, You Are the Bright Day) is a quite early Bach work, likely dating to the composer's years in Lüneberg. While it may not contain the subtlety and craftsmanship of many later keyboard efforts by Bach, it is nevertheless a worthwhile piece. It has become fairly popular and highly regarded, too, standing above his other subsequent keyboard setting of this chorale, the Chorale Prelude "Neumeister" (BWV 1120). This earlier version is a quite substantial work, both in length -- lasting around nine or ten minutes -- and in scope as it is a fairly elaborate set of variations successfully modeled on the form as espoused by Pachelbel, Scheidt, and Böhm. The work begins with the stately chorale tune slowly and grandly presented in fairly simple harmonies. The ensuing first variation comes in two parts, bringing with it a much livelier, busier atmosphere. The variations that follow feature a fairly sophisticated level of contrapuntal writing, with the main line often in the upper ranges. There is a lovely slow variation at the center of this work, as well as a majestic, triumphant one to close out the piece. Although not a major masterwork, this Chorale partita clearly exhibits the burgeoning genius of Bach.