Fantasia on a Bach Chorale Prelude, "O Mensch, bewein' dein' Snde gros"
I have always been fascinated by J. S. Bach's music, ever since I was studying musical composition during my high school days in Hamamatsu. I have enjoyed very much, playing Bach's chorales as well as their developed forms, the chorale preludes and fantasias on the piano, recognizing at the same time the fabulous architecture of Bach's music. Among the pieces I know, I came to notice that his excellence in note placements and part-writings were most remarkably accomplished in the chorale prelude, "O Mensch, bewein' dein' Snde gros" (Oh Man, bewail your great sins ) BWV622.
On September 11, 2001, I witnessed on TV, the shocking images of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and mourned the fact that we have to embrace the beginning of the 21st century with such horror. The previous century has already seen all but too many wars. It was then, that I came across this chorale in my mind.
At the very same period, I was commissioned to write a piece for the Chubu Japan Air Self-Defense Force Band, in which I named it, "Chorale Fantasia", a work inspired by the chorale. It premiered in 2002. This present rendition is a shortened version, and is 8 minutes long, instead of the original 14 minutes. Instead of simply cutting the piece down, the details were meticulously modified during the reconstruction of the whole fantasia. It was commissioned by the wind band of Hamamatsu Municipal High School and premiered in 2013.
For the opening, I quoted another arrangement of a chorale, BWV402, while a quote from BWV622 is presented in the final section, and with the middle section being a free form variation of the same chorale. The irregular meter section starting from the 150th measure is based on "The Seventh Seal" I have composed in 1979.
For the performance of the final chorale part, information on how to play the cantus firmus (fixed song ) in the chorale has been provided separately for reference. The bass drum's crescendo during measures 209-213 should be performed extremely loud, enough to overwhelm the entire ensemble. Finally, the music should slow down around the final four measures, as expressed by the lyrics, "He should be sacrificed, bearing the heavy burden of our sins long on the cross." in the original chorale.
(Yasuhide Ito )