The second piece of music in the Musical Mondays feature is my favourite piece of choral music: "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" from the Cantata of the same name by J.S. Bach. What I love about it is the intricacy of counterpoint in the four voices, and the independence of the accompaniment from the voices.
It is great to see the vocal line carry the basses above the tenors, the tenors frequently above the altos (sometimes up to a major sixth above) and the altos above the sopranos. Indeed, it is wonderful to see the lower voices getting the interesting parts for a change, with the sopranos left to sing the chorale.
Each line of the soprano chorale is surrounded by very complex counterpoint in the lower voices and the accompaniment. In fact, it is only on the words Lieblich and freundlich (lovely and friendly) that Bach writes "harmonic" choral music as opposed to contrapuntal, in order to give them particular emphasis.
Some of the most beautiful music is to be found in Bach's use of the suspension, where a note is held in one part, and a dissonant note introduced against it in another, resulting in the first part changing note to resolve the dissonance. This is heard most beautifully in the alto and tenor lines.
The powerful moving bass line in the final two sections is a relentless march towards some powerful sense of divinity, of hope and of salvation. Bach has the basses rising, falling back and rising again, keeping up the momentum and the tension until the end of the phrase. My favourite part of the piece comes when the basses are on there upward journey, and the three higher voices all make a three-fold cry of the phrase "reich von Gaben" (rich in gifts).
This piece of music is one of the most uplifting I have ever heard. I hope you feel the same when you hear it. So sit back, and let Bach lead you by the hand out of the humdrum of the every day world.
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