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St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

Among all of Bach’s motets, Komm, Jesu, komm! (BWV 229) is the one most closely associated with the traditions of the St. Thomas School and St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. Its text is a paraphrase of John 14:6 by the Leipzig poet Paul Thymich. Bach’s predecessor as cantor, Johann Schelle, had set the entire text of Thymich’s eleven-versed hymn for the 1684 funeral of the University of Leipzig professor Jakob Thomasius, but Bach elected to set only the first and last verses for what must have been either a memorial or funeral service. Komm, Jesu, komm! can be dated to 1732 or earlier as, in that year, the oldest surviving manuscript for the motet was copied by one of Bach’s students.

Overall, the form of the motet is that of a chorale, although Bach sets the first verse phrase-by-phrase as though it were Biblical prose. In the second verse, however, Bach harmonizes the text in four parts and exploits the many possibilities afforded by a double choir. Using contrasting rhythms, meters and textures, the first section steadily mounts in intensity as the text repeatedly calls out for Jesus, and then, after strong chordal blocks, the following minuet-like melody conveys the soul’s surrender to God.

Komm, Jesu, komm! will be performed by the Boulder Bach Chorus, under the direction of Zachary Carrettin, during 21 and 23 February 2014 concerts in Denver and Boulder of the thirty-third season of the Boulder Bach Festival.