Monday Musical Moment: MMM: Awake!

Justin Langham   -  
Happy Monday!
Today, I would like to share with you one of my all-time favorite pieces, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, or “Awake, the voice calls to us,” by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are actually two pieces of Bach’s catalog of works with this same title, but they are very much related; they are BWV 140, which was composed in Leipzig in 1731 and remains one of Bach’s most well-known church cantatas (a cantata is a narrative piece of vocal music accompanied by instruments), and a work for solo organ, BWV 645, which is the focus today.
BWV may seem like a strange and random assortment of letters, but they actually stand for the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, which translates as simply the Bach Work Index. And this isn’t a special consideration for only Bach, as other composers also have means by which their works are organized. Notable examples include the Köchel Index for works by Mozart (“The Magic Flute, K. 620), and the Deutsch Catalogue for works by Franz Schubert (“Erlkönig”, Op. 1, D 328)both named for the men who first catalogued his works.
Now, back to Bach… Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645, is essentially a direct copy of the fourth movement of the larger cantata. Before you ask, yes composers can reuse music from earlier compositions, and was actually a common practice by Bach and other Baroque composers who were mostly concerned with volume of music written for their job position than creating spontaneous works of art. Of course, they did that also!
I heard this organ solo a few years ago and have been captivated by its charm ever since. The tune has an incredibly carefree, almost whimsical character about it, and can be hypnotic when played at the right pace. Although Bach composed, as he often did, this piece for a specific date on the Christian calendar (first Sunday after Trinity Sunday), many organists play the piece throughout Advent. Some of you may remember that our own Melissa Burnham played it beautifully just yesterday morning!
Have a wonderful week as we cross the halfway point of Advent!