Hans Fagius plays “O Lamm Gottes unschuldig.”
Yesterday was Maundy Thursday, and my husband Carl said to me, “Hey, this is the first Maundy Thursday in 35 years that you have not played Bach’s O Lamm Gottes unschuldig.” I answered, “But I listened to Marie-Claire Alain’s performance of it in the car!”
This three-part chorale prelude on “O Lamb of God” from the Great Eighteen Chorales is so familiar to me, not only because I played it every Maundy Thursday for the last thirty-five years, but also because I performed it on my master’s recital at Westminster Choir College. In the first verse, the melody appears in the soprano; in the second verse, it moves to the alto; and finally, it appears in the bass in the third verse, all of this a gradual movement downward. Some people have speculated this downward movement represents Christ beginning in heaven, then on earth among the people, and finally, descending to the dead.
When I first heard Marie-Claire Alain’s recording of this piece, I was surprised that she played all three verses on organo pleno (full organ). I have since purchased two more recordings of the Great Eighteen — one performed by Peter Sykes and other by Christa Rakich — and both of them also play this piece on full organ throughout.
However, when I play this piece, I will start with a single 8′ stop, go to 8′ and 4′ for the second verse, and use full organ when I get to the third verse, much like the recording above.
Let me know what you think.