"Come, Sweet Death, Come Blessed Rest" (BWV 478) for Organ and Choir
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).
|Key signature||3 flats|
|Part names||Voice (4)
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