Distributed Cantus FirmusIn our first two chorale preludes the cantus firmus appeared in one voice. In Liebster Jesu it appeared as a canon between two voices. But what about more voices? Does a cantus firmus ever appear in all voices? Before answering that question, learn the melody of the following chorale...especially the first phrase.
The answer to the question in the first paragraph is: Yes the cantus firmus may appear in all voices. This may take one of two forms: one phrase of the chorale may be given to each voice, or each phrase may be given to a different voice. The following example is the first movement of Bach's Cantata BWV 61 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. You will notice that he gives the first phrase of the Nun komm melody to each voice, then abandons it for a faster section, only to return for a concluding slow section. While we normally think of French overture as an instrumental genre...the slow/fast/slow of this movement, plus its clipped dotted rhythms, are in the French style.
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©1996 Timothy A. Smith
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