Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654 • J.S. Bach
“Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness” – Hymnal #339
Our prelude on Sunday is based on Johannes Crüger's chorale Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, which is also our hymn during the administration of Communion. Crüger’s hymn was first published in 1644; about 70 years later, J.S. Bach took the melody and shaped it into one of his most beloved chorale preludes for organ.
Composed sometime during Bach's years in Weimar (1708-1717), the chorale prelude comes from Bach’s “Leipzig” chorales, a collection of 18 or so chorales that These compositions encapsulate the very essence of his compositional style.
In this chorale prelude, Bach uses compositional devices applied to the chorale melody to ‘paint the text’ of the chorale. A way to musically illuminate its text. The melody is found in the uppermost voice, intricately ornamented. While the ear is often drawn to the beautiful melody and its ornamentation, the other voices provide an equally, if not more beautiful counterpoint underneath. Bach introduces each phrase of the melody with three plain dotted half notes. This simple and beautiful technique, while leading the ear to think the chorale melody will be heard in a straightforward presentation, serves to magnify the effect of the blossoming ornamentation of the melody – “Soul, adore thyself with gladness.”
Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music
St. George’s Favorite Hymn Project:
We are collecting YOUR favorite hymns. Submit yours today!
Tell us what it is here and why.