Cantata BWV 140 'Wachet Auf'
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach has 11 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame, making him your fifth most popular composer after Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart. This is his first entry, and it has appeared in every Hall of Fame except 2007.
The opening of this cantata, Wachet auf, which translates as 'sleepers awake', contains a tune written by a Lutheran pastor called Philipp Nicolai. It caught Bach's attention during his golden Leipzig period. It wasn't unusual for Bach to transform original melodies by other chorale and hymn-tune composers into his own works of art. The first performance of this most beautiful of wake-up calls was on 25th November 1731, which was the 27th Sunday after Trinity the specific day for which the work was written to be performed. It is notable that there can be only 27 Sundays after Trinity in years when Easter falls early. As a result, this now famous cantata was, in fact, rarely heard in the years after it was written.
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