Sabbath musical delight: J. S. Bach, sinfonia to Cantata BWV 29, also appearing as Preludio to Sonata in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006, and… as the organ solo in Deep Purple’s “Nothing At All”

A key part of J. S. Bach’s musical duties in Leipzig was to provide cantatas (vocal-instrumental multimovement ensemble compositions) for the church services at the Thomaskirche (and, subordinate to that, the Nikolaikirche). Some of these services, while nominally using religious texts, were actually composed for secular occasions, such as BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Herr” (we thank Thee, O Lord) which was a Ratswechselkantate (cantata for the changing/installation of the town council) for the year 1731. The opening Sinfonia has long been a favorite of audiences:

Cantata BWV 29 (in baroque chamber pitch, a semitone below today’s concert pitch)

The same piece of music appears, a whole step up, as the prelude to Sonata in E major for solo violin. Here is Itzḥak Perlman playing it:

Considering the frequent bariolages (rapid alternation between a fingered and an open string) and other violinistic devices, likely Bach originally wrote the piece on violin, then decided it could work on other instruments as well. (Bach, famous in his day primarily as a virtuoso organist and harpsichordist rather than a composer, would often transcribe violin pieces by Vivaldi, Marcello, and himself for organ or harpsichord.)

Several piano arrangements have been written (by Saint-Saens, Siloti, and Rachmaninoff): I think the pianist here is playing the Siloti arrangement

Classical and classical-rock crossover violinist Rachel Barton Pine gives a really nice analysis here:

Which brings me to Deep Purple. I was a big fan of the pioneering hard rock band in my teens, and the band’s classically-trained organist Jon Lord (RIP) has always been one of my rock heroes. The band are still touring[*] and releassing albums: out of curiosity I cued up their latest, “Whoosh!”, expecting some musical nostalgia — and was pleasantly surprised by how fresh and energetic the album sounded.

The track “Nothing At All”, in the organ solo starting at 2:44, quotes the Sinfonia verbatim (link to 2:44 timestamp):

Enjoy and Shabbat shalom

[*] The Mark VIII lineup consists of drummer Ian Paice (the only continuous member for all the band’s history), Deep Purple Mark II singer Ian Gillan and bassist/backing vocalist Roger Glover, former Dixie Dregs [US jazz-rock band] founder and guitarist Steve Morse, and Jon Lord’s hand-picked successor Don Airey on keys.

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