O Mensch, bewein’ dein Sünde Groß, BWV 622 (O man, bewail your manifold sins) represents the ‘holy grail’ of chorale-paraphrases from the Orgelbüchlein (‘Little organ book’), an incomplete collection of 46 (mainly short) settings drawn up by Bach whilst in Cöthen. It was partly devised, in the composer’s words, to provide ‘guidance to an enquiring organist in how to accomplish a chorale in all kinds of ways’.
This well-known tune – albeit heavily disguised here – forms the basis of the chorale fantasia which concludes Part One of the St Matthew Passion and begins the 1725 version of the St John Passion. Bach alights on the ‘passion’ imagery through the imploring, highly ornamented contours offered here by a ‘living’ trumpet organ stop, perhaps further endorsing Peter Williams’ observation of O Mensch, bewein’ as ‘an inspired caprice’.
The soloist needs to plan his/her breathing carefully as this piece requires a good degree of stamina. Take time on the fermatas and then, after a period of preparation, it begins to take on a shape and colour required to capture the conceit of profound sadness.
- Trumpet in C
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