An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653b is the least known but arguably the most exquisite of Bach’s three chorale prelude arrangements of this evocative and serene hymn tune. In five parts, the ‘trumpet’ chorale gently hovers above the flowing intimations of the accompaniment and episodic material. The episodes comment poignantly on the plight of the exiled Jews (‘we never cease from weeping, we hang our harps, in our despair’) towards a whispering close. Such is the score-like layout of this chorale prelude that it’s tempting to see how, in a Bach family reunion, it could have accommodated all the youngest children in their holding a part. The devotional mood is best served in the trumpet part with an open and warm vocalised sound, gently articulated.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Parts included:

  • Piano
  • Trumpet in C

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