Komm, Heiliger Geist

Last Christmas Dymphna gave me a boxed set of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach, as performed by the late Marie Claire-Alain. It’s the best Christmas present I’ve received since 1980, when she gave me the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (which I still have — the tattered, dog-eared volume, now broken into four pieces, sits on the little desk next to me here as I type this), and possibly the best ever. The set includes fourteen CDs, each containing at least an hour of music by J.S. Bach played on the pipe organ.

Can you imagine anything more sublime? I’ve been working my way slowly through the set (I’m up to #10), enjoying Ms. Alain’s interpretation of works I already know, and savoring the ones I’ve never heard before.

It was one of the latter that caught my ear last month the first time I listened to it. About two or three minutes in, I thought, Why haven’t I heard this before??

It’s a chorale prelude for “Komm, heiliger Geist”, or “Come, Holy Spirit”, BWV 652 (I know of at least one other prelude for the same chorale, BWV 651). One of the unusual things about it is that it is exceptionally long, more than ten minutes when played by Marie-Claire Alain. I found two live performances on YouTube, where you can see the hands and feet of the organist, but the following rendition is of higher quality. It also features the score of the prelude, timed to match the performance, as a special treat for people who can read music.

This incomparably beautiful piece of music is “Komm, heiliger Geist”, performed by Bine-Katrine Bryndorf on the Wagner organ (built in 1738) in the Nidaros Cathedral at Trondheim, Norway:

As I have said many times before, this is why we fight.

I chose to enter the trenches in this information war so that music such as this might not be wiped off the face of the earth.

I decided to do what I do now so that these lambent pipes might not lie dented and silent amidst the broken and charred woodwork in the rubble of the cathedral, next to the headless body of the organist.

Come, Holy Spirit!

16 thoughts on “Komm, Heiliger Geist

  1. A lot of my real and virtual friends are musicians. It hasn’t occurred to them that there should be a disjunct between their ultra green-left politics and what they do for a hobby or a living, in a world where the defence of Western civilisation and culture is seen as an attitude of far-right nutcases (like ourselves).

  2. I was just in Trondheim and visited Nidaros cathedral.

    The architecture and organ installation are both outstanding. Sadly, I did not get a chance to hear the organ in full song while I was there.

    I have loved music in many forms since I was young, and I feel as though it is one of the best things in the universe and that some types, such as Bach, bring us closer to the divine.

    I would rather be dead than live under an ideology that denies the art and glory of music.

  3. …brings to mind this essay by Theodore Dalrymple on the occasion of 9/11.

    “What We Have to Lose”


    The closing paragraph: “If any good comes of the terrible events in New York, let it be this: that our intellectuals should realize that civilization is worth defending, and that the adversarial stance to tradition is not the beginning and end of wisdom and virtue. We have more to lose than they know.”

    I don’t see much hope that they realize it yet, our young, especially, are blind to it.

  4. Thank you for posting this.

    I praise the God Who loaned such giftedness to His humble servant. Nothing this sublime, this beautiful, this pure ever came out of Islam and never will. There is no Bach, no Mozart, no Beethoven, no Vermeer, no Chagall, in Islam. It is such music and art that gives us a reprieve from the sorrow, pain, and wickedness of this world.

  5. Sublime.

    “I don’t think that civilisation will disappear as long as we believe in it. But it will if we don’t.” -(Lord) Kenneth Clark’s notes for the BBC TV series “Civilisation”, 1968.

  6. “There is no Bach, no Mozart, no Beethoven, no Vermeer, no Chagall, in Islam.”

    Nor Louis Armstrong, nor Benny Goodman, nor Charlie Chaplin. As sterile as the desert in which it was born. No wonder rape and murder exert appeal on so many of the young. What else is there to do?

  7. Baron, have you gotten to the Toccato, Adagio & Fugue in C? The Adagio in particular is an absolute gem. I also love the St. Anne Prelude & Fugue, and the Schubler Chorales.

    • You must mean Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major, BWV 564. Here’s André Stamm playing it on the Trost-Organ in Waltershausen, Germany.

      Yes, it’s one of my old favorites. It must be popular among organists, because I have three or four versions of it performed by different organists.

      And yes, the St. Anne’s Prelude and Fugue is among the top five of Bach’s organ pieces, by my estimate. Others include the Dorian Toccata and Fugue, the Passacaglia and Fugue, and the Little Fugue. And then there are the five magnificent canonical variations on the Christmas chorale “Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her”, BWV 769, which is for some reason rarely performed.

      Under normal circumstances, except for the four listed above by their common nicknames, I can’t name any particular piece by Bach, because I rarely look at the CD covers or the liner notes. My favorites are simply ones whose motifs I remember, and which I know by where they appear on a particular CD. To identify them, as I did just now with the “Variations”, I have to pull out the CD box and find the particular number. To find the one you mentioned, I had to google it — I’d never learned the name of it.

  8. You’ll know people by the gifts they give each other.

    Yes, those are gifts for a lifetime (and beyond).

  9. It’s good to take a breather from staring into the abyss when one can! Thank you for that Baron. I love Bach and also Handel, the Messiah is one of my joys of Christmas.

  10. Come, Holy Spirit. Veni Spiritus Creator. Komm, Heiliger Geist. 圣灵降临. That is also a very appropriate prayer for these time. Without the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us, no-one can say Jesus is Lord (I Cor. 12:3). It pains me to see the hostility to the faith that animated men like Bach present in so much of the West’s academia, media, popular culture, and popular attitudes.

Comments are closed.