Like the more famous setting in the Liturgical Year,
Bach expresses sadness at the passing of the old year.
Bach's compositions have been performed and enjoyed for
over two-and-a-half centuries. Some of them, however,
are relative newcomers to the music scene, including
this chorale prelude and the other 37 by Bach found in
the Neumeister Collection by scholar Christoph Wolff in
1985. This one, "Das alte Jahr vergangen ist" (The old
year is gone), is one of the composer's more somber
efforts from that set, but perhaps one of his more
rewarding. Though it is a very early work, showing the
influence of Buxtehude, it is still a worthwhile
composition. Like many of the Neumeister chorale
preludes, it presents the chorale theme in skeletal
sonorities at the outset. Atypically, though, the theme
remains shrouded in rather modest dress and somber
tones throughout, the music seeming to look back upon
the year passed in the title with a nostalgic,
melancholy gaze. As the piece progresses, its
contrapuntal elements and deft harmonies impart a more
varied character and depth, but the gloomy mood is
never quite dispelled.
Although originally created as an organ choral prelude,
I adapted this work for flute and piano.