Well, you can try out for yourself. The recording was done on the sample set of the Bader-organ in the Walburgiskerk in Zutphen by Sonus Paradisi for Hauptwerk. I would like to thank you for the immense service you are providing by performing and curating these remarkable yet otherwise unknown works, which in my intermittent free time I have been studying with great interest, not only in the hope that the quality of my own chorale preludes will improve by their influence but also out of the great enjoyment I have received from these works by the old masters.
I am very glad my work is useful to you. Thanks for letting me know. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Philip Daniel October 22, at Reply. The Canonic Variations are based on the Christmas Hymn " Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her ", for which text and melody, both by Martin Luther , were published in . There are also similarities with several of the Goldberg Variations, notably the third and thirteenth, with shared motifs, keyboard technique and general structure.
In the case of the earlier harpsichord work, however, the variations are written over a fixed bass line, while BWV is based on a melody. During this period Bach had been criticized vociferously by the Danish composer Johann Adolph Scheibe for producing music that was too old-fashioned, abstract and artificial.
Scheibe had described Bach's output as "altogether too much art" and had referred to the canons as outmoded follies "Thorheiten".
However, despite the logic of the canon that underlies the Canonic Variations, Bach succeeded in producing a work which, far from being abstract and severe, was imbued with an affect of "beauty" and "naturalness", quite modern for its time and in keeping with the spirit of galante music. Combining complex counterpoint with the spiritual associations of Advent and Christmas, Bach's harmony and keyboard technique produce a musical style "at times strangely new, at others very approachable" yet "elusive enough to prompt admirers to search outside music for suitable expressive metaphor.
Various stylistic elements in the Canonic Variations recall the compositions of Bach's predecessors and contemporaries.
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The running figures in the first variation can be found in Toccata No. The galant figures of the free line in the third variation are similar to those promoted by Joachim Quantz in his treatise on flute playing. The elaborate ornamentation of the fourth variation uses many devices from his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 's treatise on keyboard technique , ; the final pedal point harks back to those of the chorale preludes of Dieterich Buxtehude , for example in his setting of "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verdebt", BuxWV The walking pedal-bass beneath the canon at the beginning of the fifth variation is similar to Georg Friedrich Kaufmann 's setting of "Vom Himmel hoch" in his Harmonische Seelenlust c.
Butler has examined the surviving manuscripts in detail to determine the manner in which the Canonic Variations were composed and published. A similar process was determined by Breig The only sources were Balthasar Schmid's engraving and Bach's autograph manuscript, a much larger collection referred to as P In addition there were further manuscripts of Bach, used for rough working and sketches, which have not survived.
Only in , after a year had elapsed, was Variatio IV engraved. The Canonic Variations seem to have been composed, not necessarily in their final form, in or at least for the New Year's Fair of In the engraved version the first three variations, written in annotated form, could not be performed directly from the copy, since only one part of the canon was provided, the other having to be worked out "with the pen at home".
For variations 1—3, the annotation of canons involved suppressing the second canonic entry, so that the scoring becomes a puzzle, sometimes referred to as an "enigma" or a "riddle". As Breig speculates, it might have been that the first three variations initially comprised some form of presentation; one suitable festive occasion, appropriate for such a performance, would have been the baptism of Bach's grandson Johann August, celebrated in early December The engraved version was also probably devised to minimize page turns and economize on space, so the combination of these factors speaks against any particular significance in the order of the movements.
It is also not clear which of the remaining two canons was prepared specially for Mizler's Society. The exuberant Canon with Inversions Variatio V builds up to a cumulative climax, but originally did not contain the passing reference to the BACH motif in its closing bars. In the autograph manuscript, it becomes the central variation, comparable to the role played by the central large-scale sixteenth Goldberg variation.
This variation in three separate sections was engraved after variations 1—3; it might have been intended to be placed between the 2nd and 3rd variations; and with four variations now at Bach's disposal, that marked a new stage in Bach's development, with the flourish in Variatio V starting to gain a sense of finality. The calmer Augmentation Canon Variatio IV , on the other hand, similar to the thirteenth Goldberg variation, has a clear reference to the BACH motif in its 39th bar, its anguished harmonies resolved peacefully by the final pedal point.
Because of continual reworkings, it is now believed that Bach never intended there to be a final fixed version. In particular, commentators have pointed out that although the order of the variations in the autograph version gives it a certain aesthetic symmetry, the order in the engraved version might be more appropriate for performance. During a period of roughly 20 years of research, the musicologist Tatlow has developed her own theory of numerology and proportion with reference to Bach's compositions. In the first part of Tatlow's book, there is an account of the eighteenth century from the viewpoint of musical theory and theology.
The second part illustrates specific works or collections of works, including a detailed and lengthy discussion of the five variations in BWV with six carefully tabulated figures. Below are the first, second and last fifteenth verses of the Christmas hymn Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her by Martin Luther , published in , with the English translation from of Catherine Winkworth.
The two part canon is derived from the first and last lines of the cantus firmus.
Despite the "enigmatic" notation for the printed version in the canon, Bach's musical style gives the impression of simplicity, gracefulness and beauty: no disharmony disturbs the pervading mood of peacefulness. The falling scales have been interpreted as representing Christ's descent from Heaven to Earth, a reference to the text of the last verse. The repetition in the text "glad tidings of great joy" iines 2—3, verse 1 provides a similar repetition for the music in the canon. The involved semiquaver passages with octave imitations, along with the slowly progressing harmonies, create an effect of resonant and echoing solemnity.
Bach avoids monotony and lack of pace by modulating into the minor, followed by a brief G-major passage in the third line of the cantus firmus. The graceful introductory ritornello is recapitulated before the last line of the pedal cantus firmus, played in the tenor register with an 8' stop. The two part canon is based on the first and second lines of the cantus firmus. The compact imitative passagework follows the same scheme as Variatio I, but now with the canon at the fifth. Again the antiquated "puzzle" notation for the canon in the printed version belies the modern "natural" style, with pleasant writing and graceful slurs, The imitation follows a different pattern, less expansive with a shorter scale, the two distinct motifs answering in turn.
The secondary motive emerges from a semiquaver figures on parallel thirds: beginning with bar 9, these develop into a climax at the start of bar 16 in the cantus firmus. The articulation of both the print and autograph versions give a calmer impression of the semiquavers in Variatio II than in Variatio I. From the last quaver of bar 4, suspensions start to appear in Variatio II; further on, Bach's suspensions in the descending scales also hint at the beginning of Variatio I. As in Variatio I, there is a recapitulation of the opening ritornello—but now in syncopation with faster note values—before the last line of the cantus firmus, which is it at the same registration.
The spirited rising scales above the closing pedal point are in contrast with the falling arpeggios at the end of Variatio I. The ascending scales at the coda of Variatio II have been interpreted as departing angels or the rising up of the soul again a reference to the last verse of the text. Variatio III is a longer composition lasting 27 bars.
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her sheet music for Organ download free in PDF or MIDI
With the lower tenor and bass voices of the canons functioning as an accompaniment, the tenor entry is again delayed by two crotchets. The melody in the alto is marked cantabile in both the printed and autograph versions, with the soprano cantus firmus starting in even minims on the upbeat of bar 4. The canons themselves take the form of an ostinato ritornello derived form the first line of the cantus firmus with interludes when the cantus firmus recurs.
In contrast the musical material in the cantabile passagework contains a remarkable range of expressive figures typical of the modern galante style, with elaborate ornamentation, melismatic episodes and occasional dissonant appoggiaturas , resembles the solo part in an aria. It also has similarities with the figurations in the solo line of the slow movement of the F minor harpsichord concerto, BWV Amongst the notable ornamentation are the "sighing" suspensions and the syncopated anapaests played rapidly on the beat.
The cantabile melody was the most significant difference between the printed and manuscript version. Bach's practice was freely to extemporise on ornamentation, so that no performance was the same.
From all the versions of the second line of the chorale, the musical intensity increased, with shorter and more frequent motives: the most intense dissonance occurs at bar 19, coloured with a winding chromaticism. Similarly to Variatio II, there is a modulation to the subdominant at bar in the pedal point , the rising figures of the cantabile melody contrast with the falling motives in the canon.
In bar 19, the chromaticism of the two canonic parts evoke the dragging of the cross another example of musical iconography ; the tensions of this episode are gradually resolved as the variation comes to a peaceful and harmonious close. The canon at the seventh is scored in regular quavers with the voices in the tenor lower manual and the bass pedal. The "enigmatic" notation in the printed version simplifies the score, so that the cantabile part in the alto voice is easier to read.
- Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her, BWV 606 by J.S. Bach.
- Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her.
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In this way Bach contrasts his antiquated way of notation with his modern style of writing. The upper manuals play the alto voice with the marking Cantabile , while the soprano voice plays the cantus firmus in plain minims. The lower voices in the canon, mostly play in intervals of thirds and sixths. Yearsley describes Bach's galante style—characteristic of the alto melody—as full of musical motives containing "spontaneous and unpredictable ornamentation". When simplified by the ornamentation, the basic notes in the "skeleton" are harmonious: it is the different ornaments—be they suspensions, trills or appoggiaturas —that cause disharmonies and create the expressive qualities of Bach's style.
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The musical theorist Scheibe, formerly a student of Bach, referred to this modern musical style as delicate Sachen "delicate things". In the case of Variatio III, particularly Bach's ornamentation at the close of bars 26—27, Yearsley describes the new style as "marking the apogee of this natural elegance".