Bach on Laetare Sunday
Bach’s setting as BWV 654 of Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele is numbered among the Leipzig Chorales, written by Bach in that city in his last decade (1740-50), which represent the apogee of his sacred music for the organ. Among these eighteen works, Schumann and Mendelssohn both revered Schmücke dich especially, and Schumann famously recalled Mendelssohn’s confessing after one performance that, “If life were to deprive me of hope and faith, this single chorale would replenish me with them both.”
In the English-speaking countries, we know the hymn-tune as belonging to the words “Deck, thyself, my soul with gladness,” and at Mid-Lent, few other works could better suit the joyful yet restrained mood of the day. Rejoice, O Jerusalem.