J.S. Bach: “Betrachte, meine Seele”


Downloadable Score

This wonderful bass aria from “St. John’s Passion” is scored for low strings, lute and organ continuo and the proximity of the instrumental registers made it very challenging to adapt for the piano. The result seems “pianistic” enough yet not “baroque,” because Bach’s harmonic lute accompaniment gains a luxurious “romantic” feel on the piano. Since the aria is very short, I took the liberty of repeating it in a higher register, as any pianist would naturally prefer to have the melody in the right hand, with left-hand accompaniment. I am grateful to Stuart Arlott for suggesting this gem as a possible arrangement and would like to dedicate this piano version to his son Jules.

The melody here is notated (for convenience and continuity) as an upper voice of the left hand, but in practice, it’s almost equally shared with the right hand. When reading through the transcription, it should become clear which melody notes are within reach of either hand. Some repeated bass notes are put in parentheses if they involve stretching wider than an octave and they may be skipped. The slow tempo should help you navigate this dense texture and careful pedaling will take care of executing the melody with an expressive legato cantabile.

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