On Friday evening April 1st at 8:00pm the Cathedral Choir of Christ the King, Cathedral Organist Timothy Wissler and, guest artist, cellist Charae Krueger will present a very special program of music by the Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach.  The program will feature Bach’s famous motet Jesu meine Freude (Jesus my Joy), a set of cello pieces from the composer’s Suite in D minor and his organ masterwork  Fantasy and Fugue in G minor.  No reservations are required and the public is warmly invited to attend this hour long program.  Donations will be accepted at the door (suggested donations $10.00).

.

In 1723, Bach took the position of Cantor at St. Thomas church in Leipzig and began what would be his most fertile years as a composer and musician. At the time Latin motets were required for the beginning of the morning services but Bach concentrated his compositional energies on vocal concertos (or cantatas) written in German and specifically designed for the proper readings of each Sunday (he was to write 5 complete cycles of these!).  In addition to this incredible outpouring of music intended for Sunday services he was also called upon to write “special” music for important occasions outside of the regular liturgies.

.

“Jesu meine Freude” was one of these occasional pieces, composed shortly after his arrival in Leipzig, written for the funeral of the wife of the Leipzig postmaster. It is the longest of these special works and is the most complex in its design.  At its core is a popular hymn of the time which anchors the 11 movements of the work, the rest is Bach at his greatest.  The ingeniously symmetrical arrangement of the work explores and expands upon the chosen texts through rich harmony, sublime melody, and incisive contrapuntal rhythms.  But ever shining through the texture out these elaborate compositional techniques is a musical and sonic language that speaks to the heart of the texts…..”Ye are not of the flesh, but of the Spirit”.

.

The monumental organ Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542, probably originated as two independent pieces. The Fantasia is a superb example of the Baroque fantastic style, in which organists were encouraged to improvise as freely and daringly as the imagination—and the rules of harmony and counterpoint—would allow. In the G-Minor Fantasia Bach alternates free sections of recitative-like writing and chromatic chordal progressions with stricter sections of imitative counterpoint, producing an overall A B A B A design. The harmony ranges as far afield as Eb minor, a very unstable region in Bach’s time.

.

The Fugue seems to have been one of Bach’s most popular organ pieces, to judge from the fact that it is handed down in numerous manuscript copies. Bach appears to have played it during his visit to Hamburg in 1720, when he auditioned for the organist post at the St. Jacob’s Church. The Fugue subject is based on a Dutch folksong “Ick ben gegroet.” The figural play of the subject sets the tone for the entire piece, which progresses through an extended series of animated expositions and episodes until it reaches its climactic close. The Fugue is one of the most virtuosic organ movements Bach wrote. Indeed, in several manuscripts it is termed “The very best pedal-piece by Mr. Bach.”

.

Also on the program are selected movements of Bach’s Suite/Sonata for Cello in D minor.  The “Suite” was the first purely instrumental form of music, out of it grew other “classical” music structural forms, the sonata, the symphony, the concerto etc. In each suite Bach would compose 6 separate movements named after various popular dances of the time, though none of this music was intended to accompany any such dances.  Charae Kreuger, principal cellist for the Atlanta Opera, describes the music of the D minor suite as “overflowing with emotional richness, with dark brooding undercurrents and, perhaps, a hint of the tragic.”  The cello suites, like much of Bach’s music, had been lost in obscurity until the famous Spanish Cellist Pablo Casals “rediscovered” them in the 1930s.  It has been said that Casals, a devout Catholic, would set aside time every Good Friday to play the Suite in D minor as a meditative form of prayer for over 40 years.

.

This combination of imposing text with masterful music was the primary reason Christ the King started these Lenten Musical Meditations nine years ago. “The season of Lent, as reflected in the procession of readings and liturgies from Sunday to Sunday and week to week, has such a dramatic movement and pace” notes Culver.  “And the genius of Bach’s music is that it not only explores text and tone, but also invites contemplation and reflection through its very structure.   We hope these meditations will enrich the spirits of all those who attend”.

.

The Cathedral offers “traditional” spoken Stations of the Cross at 7:00pm on the Friday’s of Lent and the special Bach – Musical Meditations follow at 8:00pm on April 1st.   The Cathedral is located at 2699 Peachtree Road.  Ample parking is available.

View our live streams