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"Come, Sweet Death, Come Blessed Rest" (BWV 478) for Organ and Choir

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Uploaded on Mar 12, 2012

"Come, Sweet Death, Come Blessed Rest" (Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh) was originally written by Johann Sebastian Bach for solo voice and basso continuo from the 69 Sacred Songs and Arias that he contributed to Georg Christian Schemelli's Musicalisches Gesangbuch (Schemelli Gesangbuch No. 868 -- BWV 478) edited by Georg Christian Schemelli in 1736.

Source: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komm,_s%C3%BC%C3%9Fer_Tod,_komm_selge_Ruh).

For most of these sacred songs, Bach had only to devise bass lines and figured bass indications -- the melodies selected were old and famous Lutheran tunes. Komm, süßer Tod, however, is an exception. The song has five verses, written around 1724 by some unknown poet, each of which begins which the text "Komm, süßer (süsser) Tod, komm selige Ruh" (Come, sweet death; come, blessed rest), and each of which is set to the same eight short phrases of triple-meter music. Its melody is known in no other source than the Schmelli Gesang-Buch, and it is generally believed that Bach wrote the piece from scratch. (There are two or three other entries in the Gesang-Buch that seem also to have been newly composed) .

Those familiar with ordinary German chorales will find themselves on familiar ground with Komm, süsser Tod, but its solo vocal line seems especially to exemplify Bach's supremely confident devotional side. Bach, by means of melody and harmony, expresses the desire for death and heaven.A beautiful orchestral version of this piece was made by Leopold Stokowski in 1946 (see VideoScore); it opens with all the strings muted except for a solo cello that "sings" the melody.

In my own inexperienced interpretation, the lyrics read more like a suicide note or death wish than other pieces from this time. It really seems to express the misery with things in the world and longing to end the suffering. Perhaps it was the loss of his beloved wife Maria Barbara Bach or the loss of many of his children. This piece touches me; sad to think of the suffering of a great master like this. One listener offered, "This is not a death wish in the way we normally think of it but the deep longing of a devout man of God desiring to be with his Savior. The music pulls forward and back just as the Apostle Paul was torn between the desire to be useful here on earth yet more to be with his Lord. In this piece the tension ebbs and flows until the final resolution gives full release."

I created this arrangement for Pipe Organ and created English lyrics for Choir (SATB).

baroque

Pages 5
Duration 08:22
Measures 21
Key signature 3 flats
Parts 5
Part names Voice(4), Organ
Privacy Everyone can see this score
License None (All rights reserved)
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A listener on YouTube offered: "If I may offer a few thoughts. Much too fast and mechanical. It should be, I think, no more than 40 bpm and free flowing. This is not a death wish in the way we normally think of it but the deep longing of a devout man of God desiring to be with his Savior. The music pulls forward and back just as the Apostle Paul was torn between the desire to be useful here on earth yet more to be with his Lord. In this piece the tension ebbs and flows until the final resolution gives full release." I agreed and implemented his suggestion.
Hi. Great work here, beautiful. The lyrics are strong. Bach really felt like this? Best regards.
Aman, I was truly surprised when I first read the lyrics. I looked again to make sure that it was really Bach. I had no Idea either. I have been trying to understand his frame of mind here. I can only guess that perhaps it was the loss of his beloved wife Maria Barbara Bach or the loss of his sight and many of his children.
I think there is a misunderstanding here. The lyrics were not written by Bach. In fact, we don't know who wrote the lyrics. Bach simply set them to music. Also, the text of the piece isn't some mourning poem. It describes the deep desire and longing for the rest that comes in Heaven after death. The speaker is weary of the trials and tribulations of the world and is ready to move on. It's not "a suicide note or death wish" any more than any sacred hymn that speaks of life after death.
Please click on the "VideoScore" link to the right to hear an accurate sound representation of the piece. MuseScore currently does not replicate the Pipe Organ soundfont correctly on the online site.
In my own inexperiencied intrepretation, the lyrics read more like a suicide note or death wish than other pieces from this time.