Sleepers, Wake!


Bach bust

The Ordeal of J.S. Bach

The boy watched in muted grief as adults threw handfuls of dirt upon the coffin below.  The hole in the ground became a hole in the young boy’s life, a hole that his mother had once filled with warmth and affection.  Now his mother filled the coffin below, as others filled the grave with dirt.  Did young Sebastian, for that is what his friends and family called him, fill the hole in his life with music?  Perhaps a hymn wafts through his mind like the aroma of fragrant Maiglöckchen flowers, the sweet lily-of-the-valley that were blooming on that fateful May day:

Zion hears the watchmen singing,

And all her heart with joy is springing,

She wakes, she rises from her gloom.

Heart racing, the young boy perhaps then recalls his mother’s warm body, her loving devotion.

For her Lord comes down all glorious,

The strong in grace, in truth victorious,

Her Star is risen, her Light is come.

“Now come, Thou Blessed One…”

And the grave was filled and she was gone—gone to meet the Bridegroom who is near—so far away.

The boy’s father, Eisenach’s Town Musician, would marry again before year’s end, but Sebastian hardly knew the widow bride, for his father, too, would be taken by death just two months later.  Again the boy watched in silent despair as others threw handfuls of dirt upon the coffin below.  The hole in the ground was yet another hole in the young boy’s life, a hole that his father had once filled with joyous music.  Now his father filled the coffin below, as others filled the grave with dirt.  Did young Sebastian fill again the hole in his life with hymnody?

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,

Let men and angels sing before Thee,

With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.

Of one pearl each shining portal,

Where, dwelling with the choir immortal,

We gather round Thy radiant throne.

No vision ever brought,

No ear hath ever caught,

Such glory;

Therefore will we Eternally

Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.[1]

Yes, the Town Musician had joined the choir immortal, but the boy…  Did the boy actually hear the choir, and catch its glory, there on that bleak midwinter day?

Before his tenth birthday, Sebastian had lost both mother and father.  Now orphaned, he was sent to live with elder brother Johann Christoph, the organist at St. Michael’s Church in provincial Ohrdruf, a day’s journey away.  Gone are the carefree days of skipping down cobblestone streets with the other wild boys of Eisenach.  No more trekking up to medieval Wartburg Castle, there to gaze out across all of Germany it seemed, telling each other tales of Martin Luther’s exile within those very stone parapets atop the summit, where Luther had worked to translate the Holy Bible for all to read nearly 200 years before.

And so begins the lifelong ordeal of Johann Sebastian Bach.  His father the Town Musician had from an early age been teaching him the family business—the young Bach was already an accomplished violinist and superb soprano—but most of his training had consisted of delivering instruments and other musical necessities wherever they were needed for performances in Eisenach, as well as maintenance and minor repairs.  His elder cousin, also named Christoph, had occasionally employed the small boy to climb inside and make adjustments to the cantankerous pipe organ at St. George’s Church; thus Sebastian literally learned about the most complex and sophisticated machinery of his day from the inside out.[2]

Yet he immediately clashed with his brother Christoph, who was already expecting his own first child.  Sebastian yearned to play the keyboard instruments—pipe organ and various clavier—but Christoph deemed the boy too young (and may have, as well, been jealous of the boy’s obviously greater talent).  So when Sebastian was caught surreptitiously copying keyboard pieces by the likes of Johann Pachelbel, he dismissed himself from the household and took off on foot for St. Michael’s Latin Grammar School in Lüneburg, some 200 miles away.  Already, by the age of fifteen, we hear the theme of genius oppressed by mediocrity, a theme that will become the primary subject in our fugue of Bach’s life, imitated in various keys for as long as he lived.[3]

Though his voice would soon break at St. Michael’s—rendering the fine soprano for which he had been admitted useless—Bach quickly rose in stature at the school.  Where his scholastics had previously been noteworthy only for their absence, he now rose to the top of his class.[4]

Young Bach statueAfter graduating St. Michael’s, Sebastian landed a job as church organist in Arnstadt, where the youth would cement his reputation as highly gifted, headstrong, and quarrelsome.  It seemed that one evening after rehearsal, Bach was striding across the town square when he came upon some older students from the Lyceum.  One of them, name of Geyersbach, asserted that Bach had once disrespected him in a rehearsal.  Bach freely confessed that, yes, he had called the young man a Zippel Faggottist (punk bassoonist), and this so enraged Geyersbach that he flew at the cocky organist, grabbing him by the arm and preventing Bach from reaching his dagger.  The two locked arms and fell to the ground, wrestling on the square until friends of the faggottist could finally pull them apart.[5]  From there, Bach moved on to St. Blasius’ Church in Mühlhausen, where he composed his first cantatas, including his massive polychoral cantata based on the text of Martin Luther: God is my King.  This cantata was actually published, temporarily putting Bach ahead of his contemporaries Telemann and Handel, who would go on to enjoy substantially greater popularity than Bach during their respective careers.[6]  Yet after just one year, Bach left the post, saying it was impossible to compose “well-regulated church music” in Mühlhausen.

The 23-year-old then took his newly wedded (and four-months pregnant) bride, Maria Barbara Bach to Weimar, where he had auditioned and won the position of Chamber Musician and Court Organist for the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, which was then ruled by two dukes: Ernst August (nephew), who was notable for his investments in the arts and antiquarian interests, and Wilhelm Ernst (uncle), who had actually auditioned and hired the court organist.  Young Bach thus held the unenviable position of serving two masters.  And the Bachs’ first child, Catharina Dorothea, was born shortly after they moved into their new home.

In his capacity at court, Bach played only with professional musicians and performed regularly as church organist in the palace church, the magnificent Himmelsburg or “Castle of Heaven,” which was acoustically designed such that music seemed to radiate from the heavens above.  Bach took full advantage of this position, and it is here that he established his preeminence in the science of music.  He was well positioned to champion the Wohltemperiert or “Well tempered” tuning of organs and clavichords that enabled playing of the instruments in all keys without any of them sounding out of tune.  Prior to Well temperament, instruments could be played in only a few keys, depending on how they were tuned.  Eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann was born in Bach’s 25th year.

At the same time, Bach refined his keyboard fingering technique such that the fingers are curved rather than flat, and the thumb is used as a principal finger.  Keyboard instruments had previously been played with flat fingers, and the thumb was not used at all, a technique that was quite inefficient, and impossible to use in the playing of Bach’s keyboard compositions, which require great speed and economy of movement.  As Johann Nicolaus Forkel would later write:

From the easy, unconstrained motion of the fingers, from the beautiful touch, from the clearness and precision in connecting the successive tones, from the advantages of the new mode of fingering, from the equal development and practice of all the fingers of both hands, and, lastly, from the great variety of his figures of melody which were employed in every piece in a new and uncommon manner, Sebastian Bach at length acquired such a high degree of facility and, we may almost say, unlimited power over his instrument in all the keys that difficulties almost ceased to exist for him.[7]

The Bach twins, Maria Sophia and Johann Christoph, were born in Bach’s 28th year.  Baby Christoph died shortly after birth; Sophia died less than a month later.

“Wake, awake, for night is flying,”

The watchmen on the heights are crying…

While Bach continued the composition of cantatas at Weimar, he also produced his Orgel-Büchlein or “Little Organ Book,” in which he systematically composed a set of preludes based on Lutheran chorales that could be used by organists in church services.  In Part I, he provides chorales for the ecclesiastical year, beginning with Advent, then going through Christmas, Easter, and into Ascension.  In Part II, he provides chorales for all times of the year, arranged by subject, e.g., Catechism, Death, etc.[8]  The work serves as Bach’s first musical statement on composition, and it can also be used in the teaching of organ playing.  More importantly, his annotation to the manuscript provides us with Bach’s own personal mission statement, in which he paraphrases the Two Great Commandments:  For the highest God alone honor; for my neighbor that he may instruct himself from it, flowing directly out of the Lutheran tradition to honor God and edify one’s neighbor.[9]   The eminent composer Carl Philipp Emmanuel (C.P.E. Bach) was born in the court organist’s 29th year, followed by the difficult Johann Gottfried Bernhard in Bach’s 30th year.

In addition to serving two masters, Bach was required to serve as chamber musician as well as court organist.  It did not take him long to realize that he would never be able to fully realize his ambitions as long as he was subordinate to the father and son team of Capellmeister and Vice-capellmeister that directed the Weimar Court Capelle.  Though eventually promoted to Concertmaster, Bach began looking about for other opportunities and finally found one a couple of years later as Capellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen.  He immediately submitted his resignation notice at Weimar, and Duke Wilhelm Ernst showed his appreciation by having Bach arrested and imprisoning him for one month before releasing him to the Prince.[10]  Like Martin Luther before him, and Martin Luther King Jr. after, Bach used his time in forced isolation to produce one of his most important works: The Well-Tempered Clavier.  While incarcerated, Bach systematically composed virtuosic preludes and fugues for solo keyboard instrument in all 24 major and minor keys—in his head and without a keyboard!

As capellmeister, Bach was often required to travel with Prince Leopold’s entourage in order to provide music in the courts of other German noblemen.  In Bach’s 33rd year, a son, Leopold Augustus, was born; however, the boy died just ten months later.

“Awake, Jerusalem arise!”

Midnight hears the welcome voices…

And it was upon returning from traveling to Carlsbad with the Prince two years later that Bach learned of the death of his wife, Maria Barbara, who had died suddenly and was already buried.  As C.P.E. Bach later recalled, “The news that she had been ill and died reached him only when he entered his own house.”[11]

And at the thrilling cry rejoices:

“Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?”

On another trip, Bach performed for the court of Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, presenting to the Margrave a collection of six instrumental pieces, now known as the Brandenburg Concertos and considered to be some of the finest orchestral compositions of the Baroque period.  Bach’s eldest brother and onetime guardian, Johann Christoph, died in the same year.

“The Bridegroom comes, awake!

Your lamps with gladness take!  Hallelujah!”

Like his father before him, Sebastian Bach remarried quickly; thus the young court singer, Anna Magdalena Wilcke, joined the Bach household of four children, ranging in age from five to eleven years, and Barbara’s older sister, Fredelena, who had then been living with the Bachs for more than a decade.[12]  Bach began composing a number of pieces for keyboard, as well as a few vocal pieces, in which he systematically explored popular dance movements of the day, including minuets for keyboard and arias for voice.  He dedicated the works to his young wife in two collections now known as the Notebooks for Anna Magdalena Bach.  His brother Johann Jacob died in Sebastian’s 37th year.

“With bridal care Yourselves prepare

To meet the Bridegroom who is near.”

Daughter Christiana Sophia Henrietta was born the following year.  With the Prince’s marriage to a wife who placed little value in music, the musical scene at the court of Cöthen left Bach little choice but to find work elsewhere.  He found it in Leipzig, the burgeoning center of commerce, publishing, and education in Saxony, where G.W. Leibniz had been born and attended university the previous century.  Bach would spend the remainder of his life as Cantor and Music Director of Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church, where Martin Luther had preached and first proclaimed the Protestant Reformation in 1539.  The Bachs’ son Gottfried Heinrich was born shortly after the family’s arrival in Leipzig, followed by the births of Christian Gottlieb and Elisabeth Julianna Friederica over the next two years.  Daughter Christiana Sophia Henrietta, his first child with Anna Magdalena, died at age three, in Bach’s 41st year.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,

And all her heart with joy is springing…

Bach’s duties in Leipzig were determined by the city council, a tightfisted municipal body determined to get its money’s worth out of their cantor.  In addition to providing music for services at the city’s two main churches—St. Thomas and St. Nicholas—the cantor was required to schedule the performers and rehearse ensembles as required by the church calendar and the city’s longstanding tradition of alternating musical events between the two churches.  He was also required to provide music lessons for the students at St. Thomas School and was even required to provide the boys with Latin instruction.  This last could be handled by a substitute, which basically meant that Bach was responsible for ensuring a qualified teacher was always in the classroom as required.  The one thing that was not required of Bach was musical composition.  The council really just wanted a body in that job.  Little did they know—and still less did they care—that they had hired the greatest musical scientist in history.  Bach was employed to provide and teach music, not to create it.

Nevertheless, he saw the Leipzig situation as an opportunity to finally get serious about composing “well-regulated church music.”  He had at that point composed music in all forms and for all instruments then in use.  In the Orgel-Büchlein he had composed organ chorales for every event in the church calendar.  In the Well-Tempered Clavier he had composed in all 24 major and minor keys.  In the Notebooks for Anna Magdalena he had composed music in all of the popular styles of his day.  He had already composed the beloved Brandenburg Concertos and Cello Suites, which continue in rotation on classical radio today, as well as his lilting “Bouree” and ominous “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” both of which remain iconic even in the 21st century.  On each signed manuscript Bach had inscribed “SDG” for the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria”: Glory to God alone.  Now it was time to bring all of this experience together in a series of vocal cantatas for every Sunday in the liturgical cycle of seasons.  And in his 42nd year, Anna Magdalena bore a son, Ernestus Andreas, who died two days later.

She wakes, she rises from her gloom;

For her Lord comes down all glorious…

Bach began composing cantatas at a rate of nearly one a week in order to achieve his goal of creating a cantata for every Sunday of the canonical cycle.  Within just a couple of months of taking the job at St. Thomas, Bach produced his most endearing work, “Jesus bleibet meine Freude,” which translates as “Jesus remains my joy” but which we know today as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  In 1972 an instrumental arrangement of Bach’s chorale reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 as “Joy” by the British pop group Apollo 100.  For Christmas his first year in Leipzig, Bach produced his Magnificat, and for his first Good Friday he composed the Passion of St. John.  Thus in February 1727 he was able to compose a cantata line that translates as “I am content with the office the dear God has allotted to me.”[13]

Yet Bach knew he could accomplish still greater works.  Because no music could be performed during the Lenten season, he had a period of six weeks in which to compose what Anna Magdalena would later call her husband’s groß Bassion, his Great Passion, the Passion of St. Matthew.[14]  From the outset, Bach clearly intended to create his magnum opus.  He carefully considered how the score would be placed on each page, leaving no blank space as is typical in the composition process, and he wrote the Gospel text in red ink, as opposed to his usual sepia brown.[15]  And while the text for his John Passion had been cobbled together from various sources, for Matthew, Bach worked with the greatest German librettist of the day, who also happened to live in Leipzig, the poet known as Picander: Christian Friedrich Henrici.  Just who approached whom for this effort, composer or librettist, is not known; all we have is the final product, on which they obviously worked very closely.[16]

While the responsibility of providing choirs and instrumental accompaniment for two churches nearly every Sunday was a scheduling headache for the Thomaskantor, it did also provide a large pool of musicians and a unique opportunity that Bach could exploit in achieving his elaborate vision for the Great Passion.  Moreover, the city of Leipzig had a tradition of alternating Good Friday celebrations between St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches each year, so all of the city’s vocalists and instrumentalists were available to perform in one location.  Thus it was that on Good Friday 1727, congregants in St. Thomas Church witnessed the most ambitious, the most audacious, the most monumental setting of Christ’s Passion ever performed anywhere.

In Bach’s day, St. Thomas Church had two pipe organs, and choir lofts at both ends of the church.  Over the Westportal, or rear of the church, were two choir lofts situated on either side of the primary organ console, enormous ranks of magnificent pipes, and space for a sizable orchestra.  Above the altar, at the other end of the church, there also sat a smaller organ and the “swallow’s nest” choir loft, both of which have since been removed.  Bach took full advantage of this unique arrangement, placing choirs and instrumentalists throughout the sanctuary for choral crowd effects and antiphonal dialogue between choirs of the Faithful and the Daughters of Zion:

Come, daughters, help me lament, behold!


The Bridegroom!  Behold him!


As a Lamb.  Behold!


Behold the patience, look!

At our guilt.
See him, out of love and graciousness
bear the wood for the Cross Himself.

Together, Bach and Picander conceived of a passion structure that would adapt the Gospel According to Matthew, chapters 26-27, in five acts consisting of 28 scenes framed by a prologue and conclusion.  The story of Christ’s final days was presented in two parts—separated by the Good Friday sermon—each part beginning with a choral exordium.  Finally, a tripartite pattern emerges in Bach’s musical setting of Picander’s text: biblical narrative in recitative, comment in arioso, and prayer in aria.[17]

O pain!

Here the tormented heart trembles;

how it sinks down, how his face pales!

What is the cause of all this trouble?

The Judge leads him before judgment.

No comfort, no helper is there.

Alas! My sins have struck you down;

He suffers all the torments of Hell,

he must pay for the crimes of others.

I, alas, Lord Jesus, have earned this,

that you endure.

Ah! Could my love for you,

my Savior, diminish or bring aid

to your trembling and your despair,

how gladly would I stay here!

Bach would bring the whole of musical science to bear on this project, drawing upon his own time served in prison, during which he composed The Well-Tempered Clavier in all 24 major and minor keys, to portray each scene of Christ’s betrayal, trial, and crucifixion in the key most appropriate to the pathos of that moment.  In the “Ach Golgotha” arioso, for example, he moves chromatically through chords as rare as F-flat minor, which requires notating in double flats, and ends on the “devil in music,” an unresolved tritone, almost unbearably dissonant: D-flat to G.[18]

Alas, Golgotha, unhappy Golgotha!
The Lord of glory
must shamefully perish here,
the blessing and salvation of the world
is placed on the Cross as a curse.
From the Creator of heaven and earth
earth and air shall be withdrawn.
The innocent must die here guilty;
this touches my soul deeply;
Alas, Golgotha, unhappy Golgotha!

All of which would be difficult for an audience to comprehend, let alone enjoy; however, Bach wisely incorporates chorales that were well known to church-goers of his day, giving them something familiar amid all the new material.  Like an old friend, each hymn would be warmly welcomed by the listener, who could hum or sing along, eyes closed and head nodding in time with the music if so moved.  Yet Bach was not content to simply insert pages from the Lutheran Hymnal into his passion score; rather, he would gracefully apply musical science to the chorales as well.  We see this most clearly when he successively sets the “Passion chorale” melody of 17th century Lutheran hymnodist Paul Gerhardt in E major (♯♯♯♯), E-flat major (♭♭♭), D major (♯♯), D minor modulating to F major (♭), and A minor (♮); each iteration of the chorale descending chromatically in a course of inevitability reflecting Christ’s own inescapable passage toward death on the cross.[19]

When I must depart one day,
do not part from me then,
when I must suffer death,
come to me then!
When the greatest anxiety
will constrict my heart,
then wrest me out of the horror
by the power of your anguish and pain.

Bach is modulating between major and minor keys throughout the passion as a means of creating tension and release.  From the opening chorus, with its dual tonality of E minor (sung from the rear choir loft) punctuated by G major (sung from the swallow’s nest over the altar), both of which share the same key signature (♯), Bach’s Great Passion leads us inexorably toward its seemingly predestined resolution in C minor, as it must on Good Friday.  Yet we can rest assured that on Easter Sunday the Cantor will provide a cantata that ends in a major key.[20]

We sit down with tears

and call to you in the grave:

rest gently, gently rest!

Rest, you exhausted limbs!

Your grave and headstone

shall, for the anxious conscience,

be a comfortable pillow

and the resting place for the soul.

Rest gently, rest well.

Highly contented,

there the eyes fall asleep.

Rest gently, gently rest!

The following year, Bach’s 43rd, their son Christian Gottlieb died at age three; a daughter, Regina Johana, was born three weeks later.  Then Bach’s sister-in-law, Friedelana Margaretha Bach, sister of Bach’s first wife, Maria Barbara, died at age 53.  She had lived in the Bach household for 21 years.  On New Year’s Day 1730, daughter Christiana Benedicta was born, yet she died three days later.

The strong in grace, in truth victorious,

Her star is risen, her Light is come.

That same year, Bach was brought before the Leipzig city council.  It seems he had dismissed a choirboy for lack of musical ability without first consulting the burgomeister, or city mayor.  But this was merely an impeachable offense the council could use to reprimand their “incorrigible cantor,” for it seemed they had a long list of complaints against him, many of which stemmed from his taking frequent leave without covering his music lessons and Latin classes.  In Bach, we have a man who saw his earthly mission as divinely appointed.  In the margin of his Bible he wrote next to 1 Chronicles 25, “This chapter is the true foundation of all church music pleasing to God”:

Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals.

Further, Bach annotated, worship music is “especially ordered by God through David.”  Bach had been raised in a family of fine musicians, many of them church organists and composers, and he had been educated in the Lutheran tradition, in which music and theology are at the very core of learning.  Now the greatest composer of sacred music the world has ever known was being chastised by a bunch of petty politicians for not teaching Latin to ten-year-old schoolboys.  And what seemed to irk the councilors most of all was the fact that Bach refused to even explain himself.[21]  What can you say when one is dragged before “the chief priests, and elders, and all the council?”

They somehow managed to work through their differences, however, so Bach was allowed to keep his job.  And daughter Christiana Dorothea was born in his 45th year.  Bach resumed his effort to complete the liturgical cycle of cantatas, and so it was that on November 25, 1731 he premiered his final cantata in the second annual cycle, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, now known simply as Wachet Auf, or Sleepers, Wake.  For his primary theme, Bach used the 1599 hymn by Philipp Nicolai, which is now known as “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” and is sung by Lutherans to this day.  Bach thought so highly of the fourth movement that he arranged it for organ and included it as the opening piece in his Schübler Chorales, which he published as a sort of “Best of Bach” collection.  With its jaunty melody, basso continuo, and haunting descant, one can almost picture the composer striding through life while recalling a hymn from his youth.  Today it remains one of his most recognizable tunes.

In Bach’s 47th year, son Christoph Friedrich was born.  One-year-old daughter Christiana Dorothea died two months later.  The following year, daughter Regina Johanna died at four years of age.  A son, Johann August Abraham was soon born, but he died the next day.

Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,

Hail!  Hosanna!

“The London Bach,” composer Johann Christian (J.C. Bach), was born in Bach’s 50th year; daughter Johanna Carolina was born two years later.  And we now find that the elder Bach has embraced a new mission statement in his Generalbasslehre of 1738: for giving honor to God and for the permissible delight of the soul.  He goes on to explain that “the ultimate end or final purpose of all music … is nothing other than the praise of God and the recreation of the soul.”[22]  Thus our musical scientist has reached the point at which Leibniz had previously declared that “music is a hidden arithmetic exercise of the soul, which does not know that it is counting.”  Arthur Schopenhauer would later turn this quote toward philosophy, writing, “Music is a hidden metaphysical exercise of the soul, which does not know that it is philosophizing.”  Bach would no doubt agree with both of his countrymen.  And his ne’er-do-well son Johann Gottfried Bernhard died the following year at age 24.

The joyful call we answer all

And follow to the nuptial hall.

In 1739, Bach was surprised to learn that the Leipzig city council had interdicted and forbade without stated reason the performance of a passion on that year’s Good Friday, probably his Passion of St. John.  The venerable old cantor could now read the writing on the wall, so he returned his attention to keyboard works for the remainder of his life.  He was, by then, well known as a keyboard virtuoso and composer of all genres and styles, and he held titles of court capellmeister and court composer; therefore, he could now retreat from the fray and simply administer the duties of Thomaskantor without further conflict with the council.  So he traveled.  He played for the King of Prussia on one of the latest of musical inventions: the fortepiano, which we now know as simply the piano.  The king was himself an accomplished musician, so he provided the composer with a theme, which Old Bach proceeded to develop as a full-blown fugue, interweaving the king’s subject into a contrapuntal composition on the spot.[23]

Bach statueBach returned to Leipzig, where he composed The Art of Fugue, which his son C.P.E. Bach would publish posthumously.  And it was in this final work that Bach espoused the value of counterpoint, which he deemed more important than genre or style, as the heart of fugue, the muscle that motivates the music.  Here our fuguemeister leads the composition student through simple fugues, counter-fugues, fugues with multiple themes, and mirror fugues, before ending in a series of canons.  The Art of Fugue remains the most comprehensive statement of Bach’s musical language, and he signed the work in the clearest manner possible: a fugal subject based upon his own name, B-A-C-H (where B and H are the German note names for B-flat and B-natural, respectively).[24]

His last child, daughter Regina Susanna, was born in his 56th year, and on the evening of July 28, 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach, the divinely appointed cantor and divinely inspired musical scientist, died.[25]

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,

Let men and angels sing before Thee,

With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.

Of one pearl each shining portal,

Where, dwelling with the choir immortal,

We gather round Thy radiant throne.

No vision ever brought,

No ear hath ever caught,

Such great glory;

Therefore, will we Eternally

Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee.



[1] Philipp Nicolae, 1599, “Wachet auf, ruft une die Stimme,” tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863, The Lutheran Hymnal 609 (St. Louis, MO, Concordia Publishing House, 1941).

[2] John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York, Vintage Books, 2013), 77.

[3] 79-81.

[4] Christoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: the Learned Musician (New York, Norton, 2013), 53-59.

[5] 84.

[6] 110-111.

[7] 140.

[8] 130-132.

[9] Gardiner, 252.

[10] Wolff, 184.

[11] 211.

[12] ibid.

[13] Gardiner, 197.

[14] Wolff, 288.

[15] Gardiner, 397-398.

[16] Wolff, 296.

[17] Gardiner, 400-412.

[18] Wolff, 301.

[19] ibid.

[20] 302.

[21] Gardiner, 157-167.

[22] Gardiner, 252.

[23] Wolff, 417-427.

[24] 432-437.

[25] Woolf, “Appendix I, Chronology”

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