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The court chapel at the Schloss in Weimar where Bach was court organist. The organ loft is visible at the top of the picture.

The Orgelbüchlein ("Little Organ Book") BWV 599−644 is a collection of 46 chorale preludes for organ written by Johann Sebastian Bach. All but three of them were composed during the period 1708–1717, while Bach was court organist at the ducal court in Weimar. The remaining three, along with a short two-bar fragment, were added in 1726 or later, after Bach's appointment as cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig.

The collection was originally planned as a set of 164 chorale preludes spanning the whole liturgical year. The chorale preludes form the first of Bach's masterpieces for organ with a mature compositional style in marked contrast to his previous compositions for the instrument. Although each of them takes a known Lutheran chorale and adds a motivic accompaniment, Bach explored a wide diversity of forms in the Orgelbüchlein. Many of the chorale preludes are short and in four parts, requiring only a single keyboard and pedal, with an unadorned cantus firmus. Others involve two keyboards and pedal: these include several canons, four ornamental four-part preludes, with elaborately decorated chorale lines, and a single chorale prelude in trio sonata form. The Orgelbüchlein is at the same time a collection of organ music for church services, a treatise on composition, a religious statement and a pedagogical manual.

Title page[edit]

Title page of the Orgelbüchlein.

Worrine einem anfahenden Organisten
Anleitung gegeben wird, auff allerhand
Arth einen Choral durchzuführen, an-
bey auch sich im Pedal studio zu habi-
litiren, indem in solchen darinne
befindlichen Choralen das Pedal
gantz obligat tractiret wird.
Dem Höchsten Gott allein' zu Ehren,
Dem Nechsten, draus sich zu belehren.
Joanne Sebast. Bach
p. t. Capellae Magistri
S. P. R. Anhaltini-

Title page of autograph of the Orgelbüchlein

The title page of the autograph score reads in English translation:[1]

Little Organ Book
In which a beginning organist receives given instruction as to performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal, since in the chorales contained herein the pedal is treated entirely obbligato.

In honour of our Lord alone
That my fellow man his skill may hone.

Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, Capellmeister to his Serene Highness the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen

History and purpose[edit]

The baroque organ in the Johanniskirche in Lüneburg, where Bach's teacher Georg Böhm was organist
Organ in St Blasius Church in Mülhausen, reconstructed in 1959 to Bach's 1708-09 specifications, with a third keyboard and 26 bell glockenspiel.[3]
Autograph manuscript of the chorale prelude Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 739, 1705

Bach's formal training as a musician started when he was enrolled as a chorister at the Michaelskirche in Lüneburg in 1700–1702. Manuscripts in Bach's hand recently discovered in Weimar by the Bach scholars Peter Wollny and Michael Maul show that while in Lüneburg he studied the organ with Georg Böhm, composer and organist at the Johanniskirche. The documents are hand copies made in Böhm's home in tablature format of organ compositions by Reincken, Buxtehude and others. They indicate that already at the age of 15 Bach was an accomplished organist, playing some of the most demanding repertoire of the period.[4] After a brief spell in Weimar as court musician in the chapel of Johann Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Bach was appointed as organist at St. Boniface's Church (now called the Bachkirche) in Arnstadt in the summer of 1703, having inspected and reported on the organ there earlier in the year. In 1705–1706 he was granted leave from Arnstadt to study with the organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck, a pilgrimage he famously made on foot. In 1707 Bach became organist at St. Blasius' Church in Mühlhausen, before his second appointment at the court in Weimar in 1708 as concertmaster and organist, where he remained until 1717.

During the period before his return to Weimar, Bach had composed a set of 31 chorale preludes: these were discovered independently by Christoph Wolff and Wilhelm Krunbach in the library of Yale University in the mid-1980s and first published as Das Arnstadter Orgelbuch. They form part of a larger collection of organ music compiled in the 1790s by the organist Johann Gottfried Neumeister (1756–1840) and are now referred to as the Neumeister Chorales BWV 1090–1120. These chorale preludes are all short, either in variation form or fughettas.[5] Only a few other organ works based on chorales can be dated with any certainty to this period. These include the chorale partitas BWV 766-768 and 770, all sets of variations on a given chorale.[6]

During his time as organist at Arnstadt, Bach was upbraided in 1706 by the Arnstadt Consistory "for having hitherto introduced sundry curious embellishments in the chorales and mingled many strange notes in them, with the result that the congregation has been confused." The type of chorale prelude to which this refers, often called the "Arnstadt type", were used to accompany the congregation with modulating improvisatory sections between the verses: examples that are presumed to be of this form include BWV 715, 722, 729, 732 and 738. The earliest surviving autograph manuscript of a chorale prelude is BWV 739, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, based on an Advent hymn. It dates from 1705 and possibly was prepared for Bach's visit to Lübeck.[7]

Compositional style[edit]

The chorale preludes of the Orgelbüchlein share several common stylistic features,[8] which are the distinguishing traits of what may be called the "Orgelbüchlein-style chorale:"

  • The chorale melody, embellished to varying degrees or unembellished altogether, is in one voice (excepting BWV 615, In dir ist Freude, in which the melody is broken up into motives and bounces between several voices).
  • The melody is in the soprano voice (except for BWV 611, '"Christum wir sollen loben schon" in which it is in the alto voice, and the canonical preludes BWV 600, 608, 618, 619, 620, 624, 629 and 633/634).
  • The pieces are written in four-voice counterpoint, except for BWV 599, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, and BWV 619, Christe du Lamm Gottes, which are written in five voices; and BWV 639, Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, which is written in three.
  • The pieces span exactly the length of the chorale melody; there are no introductions or codas.

Chorale Preludes BWV 599–644[edit]

The brief descriptions of the chorale preludes are based on the detailed analysis in Williams (2003) and Stinson (1999).
To listen to a MIDI recording, please click on the link.

Advent BWV 599–602[edit]

The melody and words of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland from the Erfurt Enchiridion, 1524
  • BWV 599 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [Come now Saviour of heathens] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Luther's advent hymn with the translation in English of George MacDonald.

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,
der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt!
dass sich wundre alle Welt,
Gott solch' Geburt ihm bestellt.
Come, Saviour of nations wild,
Of the maiden owned the Child,
Fill with wonder all the earth,
God should grant it such a birth.

Although it has often been suggested that this opening advent chorale prelude resembles a French overture, in construction, with its texture of arpeggiated chords, it is more similar to the baroque keyboard preludes of German and French masters, such as Couperin. The accompanying motif in the lower three or sometimes four parts is derived from a suspirans in the melodic line, formed of a semiquaver (16th note) rest—a "breath"—followed by three semiquavers and a longer fourth note. Some commentators have seen this falling figure as representing a descent to earth, but it could equally well reflect a repetition of the words "Nun komm" in the text. The suspirans is made up of intervals of a rising second, a falling fourth following by yet another rising second. It is derived from the first line of the melody of the cantus firmus and often shared out freely between voices in the accompaniment. The mystery of the coming of the Saviour is reflected by the somewhat hidden cantus firmus, over harmonies constantly reinventing themselves. It is less predictable and regular than other settings of the same hymn by Bach or predecessors like Buxtehude, only the second and third lines having any regularity. The last line repeats the first but with the suspirans suppressed and the dotted rhythms of the bass replaced by a long pedal note, possibly reflecting the wonder described in the third and fourth lines of the first verse.

  • BWV 600 Gott, durch deine Güte [God, through your goodness] (or Gottes Sohn ist kommen [The Son of God is come]) About this sound play 
St John the Baptist with the Lamb of God, early 16C stained glass from Mariawald Abbey near Cologne


Below is the first of three verses of Johann Spannenberg's advent hymn with the translation in English of Charles Sanford Terry.

Gott, durch deine Güte,
wolst uns arme Leute
Herze, Sinn und Gemüte
für des Teufels Wüten
am Leben und im Todt
gnädiglich behüten.
God of grace and mercy,
Glance in pity on me;
Heart and mind and spirit,
Keep them through Thy merit.
Satan every hour
Waiteth to devour.

It is set to the same melody as Johann Roh's advent hymn Gottes Sohn ist kommen, the first verse of which is given here with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Gottes Sohn ist kommen
uns allen zu Frommen
hier auf diese Erden
in armen Gebärden,
daß er uns von Sünde
freiet' und entbünde.
Once He came in blessing,
All our ills redressing;
Came in likeness lowly,
Son of God most holy;
Bore the cross to save us,
Hope and freedom gave us.

This chorale prelude is a canon at the octave in the soprano and tenor voices, with the tenor entering one bar after the soprano. The stops for the canonic parts were explicitly marked by Bach in the autograph score, with the high tenor part in the pedal, written at the pitch Bach intended and also within the compass of the Weimar organ. Bach left no indication that the manualiter parts were to be played on two keyboards: indeed, as Stinson (1996) points out, the autograph score brackets all the keyboard parts together; in addition technically at certain points the keyboard parts have to be shared between the two hands. The accompaniment is a skillful and harmonious moto perpetuo in the alto and bass keyboard parts with flowing quavers (eighth notes) in the alto, derived from the first four quaver suspirans figure, played above a walking bass in detached crotchets (quarter notes). The hymn was originally written in duple time but, to facilitate the canonic counterpoint, Bach adopted triple time with a minim beat, at half the speed of the bass. The bass accompaniment at first is derived directly from the melody; during the pauses in the soprano part, a second motif recurs. The continuous accompaniment in quavers and crotchets is an example of the first of two types of joy motif described by Schweitzer (1911b), used to convey "direct and naive joy." In the words of Albert Riemenschneider, "the exuberance of the passage work indicates a joyous background."

  • BWV 601 Herr Christ, der einge Gottes-Sohn [Lord Christ, the only Son of God] (or Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset [Lord God, now be praised]) About this sound play 
The Annunciation, early 16C German stained glass roundel


Below are the first and last verses of Elisabeth Cruciger's hymn for Epiphany "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn" with the English translation of Myles Coverdale.

Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottes-Sohn
Vaters in Ewigkeit,
aus sein'm Herzen entsprossen,
gleichwie geschrieben steht,
er is der Morgensterne,
sein Glänzen streckt er ferne
vor andern Sternen klar.
Ertöt uns durch dein Güte,
erweck uns durch dein Gnad;
den alten Menschen kränke,
daß der neu' leben mag
wohl hie auf dieser Erden,
den Sinn und all Begehren
und G'danken hab'n zu dir.
Christ is the only Sonne of God,
The Father Eternall:
We have in Jesse founde this rod,
God and Man natural!
He is the mornynge star;
His beames sendeth He out farre
Beyonde other starres all.
Awake us, Lorde, we praye The;
Thy Holy Spirite us gave,
Which maye oure olde man mortifie,
That oure new man maye lyve.
So wyll we alwaye thanke The,
That shewest us so great mercye,
And oure synnes dost forgeve.

The same melody was used in the postprandial grace Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset, the first verse of which is given below with the English translation of Charles Sanford Terry.

Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset,
wir sagen frohen Dank,
daß du uns Gnad' erwiesen,
gegeben Speis' und Trank,
dein mildes Herz zu merken,
den Glauben uns zu stärken,
daß du seist unser Gott.
O God in heaven we praise Thee
And yield Thee gratitude
For all Thy generous bounty,
For all our daily food,
For all the love showered on us.
For all the grace poured on us,
By Thee, our loving Lord.

According to the chronology of Stinson (1996), this chorale prelude was probably the first to be entered by Bach in the autograph manuscript. Already it shows with beguiling simplicity all the features typical of the Orgelbüchlein preludes. The cantus firmus is presented unadorned in the soprano line with the other three voices on the same keyboard and in the pedal. The accompaniment is derived from the suspirans pedal motif of three semiquavers (16th notes) followed by two quavers (eighth notes). For Schweitzer (1911b) this particular motif signified "beatific joy", representing either "intimate gladness or blissful adoration." Although the chorale prelude cannot be precisely matched to the words of either hymn, the mood expressed is in keeping both with joy for the coming of Christ and gratitude for the bountifulness of God. The motif, which is anticipated and echoed in the seamlessly interwoven inner parts, was already common in chorale preludes of the period. Easy to play with alternating feet, it figured in particular in the preludes of Buxtehude and Böhm as well as an earlier manualiter setting of the same hymn by Bach's cousin, Johann Gottfried Walther. Bach, however, goes beyond the previous models, creating a unique texture in the accompaniment which accelerates, particularly in the pedal, towards the cadences. Already in the opening bar, as Williams (2003) points out, the subtlety of Bach's compositional skills are apparent. The alto part anticipates the pedal motif and, with it and the later dotted figure, echos the melody in the soprano. This type of writing—in this case with hidden and understated imitation between the voices, almost in canon, conveying a mood of intimacy—was a new feature introduced by Bach in his Orgelbüchlein.

  • BWV 602 Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott [Praise be to God Almighty] About this sound play 


Below are the first two verses of Michael Weisse's advent hymn with the English translation of John Gambold.

Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott,
der unser sich erbarmet hat,
gefandt sein allerliebsten Sohn,
aus ihm geborn im höchsten Thron,
auf daß er unser Heiland würd,
uns freiet von der Sündenbürd
und durch sein Gnade und Wahrheit
führet zur ewigen Klarheit.
To God we render thanks and praise,
Who pitied mankind's fallen race,
And gave His dear and only Son
That us, as children, He might own.
He came to seek and save the lost;
We sinned, and He would bear the cost.
That we might share eternal bliss;
O what unbounded love was this!

The cantus firmus for this chorale prelude originates in the Gregorian chant Conditor alme siderum. Although in the phrygian mode, Bach slightly modifies it, replacing some B♭s by B♮s in the melody, but still ends in the key of A. The accompaniment is composed of two motifs, both suspirans: one in the inner parts contains a joy motif; and the other, shared between all three lower parts, is formed of three semiquavers (16th notes) and a longer note or just four semiquavers. In the pedal part this prominent descending motif has been taken to symbolise the "coming down of divine Majesty." Some commentators have suggested that the motion of the inner parts in parallel thirds or sixths might represent the Father and Son in the hymn. Albert Riemenschneider described the lower voices as creating "an atmosphere of dignified praise."

Christmas BWV 603–612[edit]

  • BWV 603 Puer natus in Bethlehem [A boy is born in Bethlehem] About this sound play 
The Nativity, Wildungen altarpiece of Konrad von Soest


Below is the first verse of the traditional Latin carol with the English translation of Hamilton Montgomerie MacGill.

Puer natus est in Bethlehem,
unde gaudet Ierusalem!
Alleluia, alleluia!
A Child is born in Bethlehem;
Exult for joy, Jerusalem!
Allelijah, Allelujah!
  • BWV 604 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ [Praised be you, Jesus Christ] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
The Nativity, Albrecht Altdorfer


Below is the first verse of Martin Luther's version "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" of the traditional Christmas hymn Gratis nunc omnes reddamus, with the English translation of Myles Coverdale.

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ,
dass du Mensch geboren bist
von einer Jungfrau, das ist wahr;
des freuet sich der Engel Schar.
Now blessed be Thou, Christ Jesu;
Thou art man borne, this is true:
The aungels made a mery noyse,
Yet have we more cause to rejoyse.
  • BWV 605 Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich [The day is so full of joy] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
The Nativity, early 16C stained glass from Mariawald Abbey near Cologne


Below is the German version of the Christmas hymn Dies est latitiae with the English translation by Charles Sanford Terry.

Der Tag, der is so freudenreich
aller Kreature,
denn Gottes Sohn vom Himmelreich
über die Nature
von einer Jungfrau is geboren,
Maria, du bist auserkoren
das du Mutter wärest.
Was geschah so wunderlich?
Gottes Sohn vom Himmelreich,
der is Mensch geboren.
Ein Kindelein so löbelich
ist uns geboren heute
von einer Jungfrau säuberlich
zu Trost uns armen Leuten.
Wär uns das Kindein nicht geboren,
so wären wir allzumal verloren;
das Heil is unser aller.
Ei du süsser Jesu Christ,
dass du Mensch geboren bist,
behüttet uns vor der Holle!
O hail this brightest day of days,
All good Christian people!
For Christ hath come upon our ways,
Ring it from the steeple!
Of maiden pure is He the Son;
For ever shall thy praise be sung,
Christ's fair mother Mary!
Ever was there news so great?
God's own Son from heaven's high state
Is born the Son of Mary!
This day the wondrous Child is born,
Lent to earth from heaven.
He comes to cheer a world forlorn,
Its heavy sin to leaven.
So, sing ye all the glorious birth
Which doth redeem our fallen earth,
And works our salvation.
Laud to Thee, Child Jesu Christ!
With mankind Thou'st kept the tryst
Thou Star of every nation.
  • BWV 606 Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her [From Heaven on high I come here] About this sound play 
Three angels, early 16C stained glass from Germany


Below are the first, second and last verses of the Christmas hymn by Martin Luther with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her.
ich bring' euch gute neue Mär,
der guten Mär bring ich so viel,
davon ich singn und sagen will.
Euch ist ein Kindlein heut' geborn
Von einer Jungfrau auserkorn,
Ein Kindelein, so zart und fein,
Das soll eu'r Freud und Wonne sein.
Lob, Ehr sei Gott im höchsten Thron,
Der uns schenkt seinen ein'gen Sohn.
Des freuen sich der Engel Schar
Und singen uns solch neues Jahr.
From Heaven above to earth I come
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
Whereof I now will say and sing:
To you this night is born a child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This little child, of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.
Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given!
While angels sing with pious mirth
A glad New Year to all the earth.
  • BWV 607 Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar [From Heaven came the host of angels] About this sound play 

Below are the first and fourth verses of Martin Luther's Christmas hymn with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth. Bwv607-preview.jpg

Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar,
erschien den Hirten offenbar;
sie sagten ihn'n: ein Kindlein zart,
das liegt dort in der Krippe hart
Was kann euch tun die Sünd' und Tod?
Ihr habt mit euch den wahren Gott.
laßt zuernen Teufel und die Höll'
Gott's Sohn ist worden eu'r Gesell.
From heaven the angel-troop come near,
And to the shepherds plain appear:
A tender little child, they cry,
In a rough manger lies hard by.
What can death do to you, or sin?
The true God is to you come in.
Let hell and Satan raging go —
The Son of God's your comrade now.
  • BWV 608 In dulci jubilo [In sweet joy] About this sound play 
First page of In dulci jubilo from autograph manuscript
Last page of In dulci jubilo from autograph manuscript


Below is the traditional fourteenth century German/Latin Christmas carol In dulci jubilo with the English/Latin translation of Robert Lucas de Pearsall.

In dulci jubilo,
nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
leit in praesepio,
und leuchtet als die Sonne
matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O!
O Jesu parvule
nach dir ist mir so weh!
Tröst mir mein Gemüte
O puer optime
durch alle deine Güte
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te!
O patris caritas,
o nati lenitas!
Wir wären all verloren
per nostra crimina,
so hat er uns erworben
coelorum gaudia.
Eia wären wir da!
Ubi sunt gaudia
nirgend mehr denn da!
da die Engel singen
nova cantica,
und die Schellen klingen
in regis curia.
Eia, wären wir da!
In dulci jubilo
Let us our homage shew:
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O!
O Jesu parvule,
My heart is sore for Thee!
Hear me, I beseech Thee,
O puer optime;
My praying let it reach Thee,
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te.
O patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!
Deeply were we stained.
Per nostra crimina:
But Thou for us hast gained
Coelorum gaudia,
O that we were there!
Ubi sunt gaudia,
If that they be not there?
There are Angels singing
Nova cantica;
And there the bells are ringing
In Regis curia.
O that we were there!
  • BWV 609 Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich [Praise God, you Christians all together] About this sound play 


Below are the first and last verses of Nikolaus Herman's Christmas hymn with the English translation by Arthur Russell.

Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich,
in seinem höchsten Thron,
der heut schließt auf sein Himmelreich
und schenkt uns seinen Sohn.
Das aus seinem Stamm entsprießen sollt
in dieser letzten Zeit,
durch welchen Gott aufrichten wollt
sein Reich, die Christenheit.
Let all together praise our God
Upon His lofty throne;
He hath His heavens unclosed to-day,
And given to us His Son.
The glorious gates of Paradise
The cherub guards no more;
This day again those gates unfolds!
With praise our God adore!
  • BWV 610 Jesu, meine Freude [Jesus, my joy] About this sound play 
Adoration of the Christ Child, early 16C Germany stained glass panel


Below are the first two verses of Johann Frank's hymn with the English translation by Catherine Winkworth.

Jesu, meine Freude,
meines Herzens Weide,
Jesu, meine Zier,
ach, wie lang, ach lange
ist dem Herzen bange
und verlangt nach dir!
Gotteslamm, mein Bräutigam,
außer dir soll mir auf Erden
nichts sonst Liebers werden!
Unter deinem Schirmen
bin ich vor den Stürmen
aller Feinde frei.
Laß den Satan wittern,
laß die Welt erschüttern,
mir steht Jesus bei.
Ob es jetzt gleich kracht und blitzt,
obgleich Sünd' und Hölle schrecken,
Jesus will mich decken.
Jesu, priceless treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me;
Ah! how long I've panted,
And my heart hath fainted,
Thirsting, Lord, for Thee!
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer nought to hide Thee,
Nought I ask beside Thee.
In Thine arm I rest me,
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here;
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear;
Sin and hell in conflict fell
With their bitter storms assail me;
Jesus will not fail me.
  • BWV 611 Christum wir sollen loben schon [We should indeed praise Christ] Choral in Alto About this sound play 
Marienalter, Albrecht Dürer


Below is the first verse of Martin Luther's hymn "Christum wir sollen loben schon" with the English translation of Charles Kinchen.

Christum wir sollen loben schon,
der reinen Magd Marien Sohn,
soweit die liebe Sonne leucht't
und an aller Welt Ende reicht.
Christ, Whom the Virgin Mary bore,
We now with humble hearts adore;
O might all nations, tribes, and tongues,
To our Immanuel raise their songs.
  • BWV 612 Wir Christenleut [We Christians] About this sound play 
Adoration of the Magi, early 16C stained glass from Steinfeld Abbey


Below are the first and third verses of the hymn of Caspar Fuger with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Wir Christenleut
haben jetzund Freud,
weil uns zu Trost Christus ist Mensch geboren,
hat uns erlöst.
Wer sich des tröst'
und glaubet fest, soll nicht werden verloren.
Die Sünd macht Leid;
Christus bringt Freud,
weil er zu uns in diese Welt ist kommen.
Mit uns ist Gott
in dieser Not:
Wer ist, der jetzt uns Christen kann verdammen?
We Christians may
Rejoice to-day,
When Christ was born to comfort and to save us;
Who thus beheves
No longer grieves,
For none are lost who grasp the hope He gave us.
Sin brought us grief.
But Christ relief,
When down to earth He came for our salvation;
Since God with us
Is dwelling thus.
Who dares to speak the Christian's condemnation?

New Year BWV 613–615[edit]

  • BWV 613 Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen [Help me to praise God's goodness] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of this New Year's hymn of Paul Eber with the English translation by John Christian Jacobi.

Helft mir Gott's Güte preisen,
ihr Christen insgemein,
mit G'sang und andrer Weisen
ihm allzeit dankbar sein,
vornehmlich zu der Zeit,
da sich das Jahr tut enden,
die Sonn' sich zu uns wenden,
das Neujahr ist nicht weit.
Come, let us All, with Fervour,
On whom Heaven's Mercies shine,
To our Supreme Preserver
In tuneful Praises join.
Another Year is gone;
Of which the tender Mercies
(Each pious Heart rehearses)
Demand a grateful Song.
  • BWV 614 Das alte Jahre vergangen ist [The old year has passed] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
Autograph manuscript of Das alte Jahre vergangen ist, BWV 614


Below are the first and third verses of this hymn of Johannes Steurlein with the translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Das alte Jahr vergangen ist,
wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
daß du uns hast in aller G'fahr
so gnädiglich behüt't dies Jahr.
Entzeuch uns nicht dein heilsam Wort,
welch's ist der Seelen Trost und Hort,
vor's Papsts Lehr' und Abgötterei
bewahr uns, Herr, und steh uns bei!
The old year now hath passed away,
We thank Thee, O our God, today
That Thou hast kept us through the year,
When danger and distress were near.
Take not Thy saving Word away.
Our souls' true comfort and their stay;
Abide with us, and keep us free
From errors, following only Thee.
  • BWV 615 In dir ist Freude [In you is joy] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of this hymn of Johann Lindemann with the English translation by Catherine Winkworth.

In dir ist Freude in allem Leide,
o du süßer Jesu Christ!
Durch dich wir haben himmlische Gaben,
du der wahre Heiland bist;
hilfest von Schanden, rettest von Banden.
Wer dir vertrauet, hat wohl gebauet,
wird ewig bleiben. Halleluja.
Zu deiner Güte steht unser G'müte,
an dir wir kleben im Tod und Leben;
nichts kann uns scheiden. Halleluja.
In Thee is gladness
Amid all sadness,
Jesus, Sunshine of my heart!
By Thee are given
The gifts of heaven,
Thou the true Redeemer art!
Our souls Thou wakest,
Our bonds Thou breakest,
Who trusts Thee surely
Hath built securely,
He stands for ever: Hallelujah!

Lindemann wrote the text in 1598, and Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi supplied the melody in 1591.[9]

Feast of the Purification BWV 616–617[edit]

  • BWV 616 Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin [With peace and joy I depart] About this sound play 
Feast of the Purification, early 16C stained glass from Mariawald Abbey near Cologne


Below is the first verse of Martin Luther's version of the Nunc dimittis with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
in Gottes Willen;
getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
sanft und stille,
wie Gott mir verheißen hat:
er Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.
In peace and joy I now depart,
According to God's will,
For full of comfort is my heart,
So calm and sweet and still;
So doth God His promise keep,
And death to me is but a sleep.
  • BWV 617 Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf [Lord God, now unlock Heaven] About this sound play 


Below are the first and last verses of Tobias Kiel's hymn with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf!
mein Zeit zu End sich neiget,
ich hab vollendet meinen Lauf,
des sich mein Seel freuet;
hab g'nug gelitten,
mich müd gestritten,
schick mich fein zu
zur ewig'n Ruh
laß fahren, was auf Erden
will lieber selig werden.
Laß mich nur, Herr, wie Simeon
im Friede zu dir fahren.
Befiehl mich Christo, deinem Sohn
der wir mich wohl bewahren;
wird mich recht führen
im Himmel zieren mit Ehr und Kron;
fahr drauf davon;
laß fahren, was auf Erden
will lieber selig werden.
Lord God, now open wide Thy heaven,
My parting hour is near;
My course is run, enough I've striven,
Enough I've suffered here;
Weary and sad
My heart is glad
That she may lay her down to rest;
Now all on earth I can resign.
But only let Thy heaven be mine.
Then let me go like Simeon
In peace with Thee to dwell.
For I commend me to Thy Son,
And He will guard me well,
And guide me straight
To the golden gate:
And in this hope I calmly die;
Yes, all on earth I can resign.
If but Thy heaven may now be mine.

Lent BWV 618–624[edit]

Lamb of God, 14C altar painting from Prague
  • BWV 618 O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig [Oh innocent Lamb of God] Canon alla Quinta About this sound play 


Below is the first verse and refrain of the third verse of this version of the Agnus Dei with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig
am Stamm des Kreuzes geschlachtet,
allzeit funden geduldig,
wiewohl du warest verachtet;
all Sünd hast du getragen,
sonst müßten wir verzagen.
Erbarm dich unser, O Jesu.
Gieb uns dein Frieden, o Jesu.
O Lamb of God, most stainless!
Who on the Cross didst languish,
Patient through all Thy sorrows.
Though mocked amid Thine anguish;
Our sins Thou bearest for us,
Else had despair reigned o'er us:
Have mercy upon us, O Jesu!
Grant us Thy peace today, O Jesu!
  • BWV 619 Christe, du Lamm Gottes [Christ, Lamb of God] in Canone alla Duodecime, a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
St John the Baptist with the Lamb of God, late 15C German stained glass roundel


Below is the first verse and refrain of the third verse of this version of the Agnus Dei with the English translation of Charles Sanford Terry.

Christe, du Lamm Gottes,
der du trägst die Sünd' der Welt,
erbarm dich unser!
gib uns dein'n Frieden!
Christ, Thou Lamb of God,
Thou that bear'st the sins of men,
Have mercy on us!
Grant to us Thy peace!
  • BWV 620 Christus, der uns selig macht [Christ, who makes us blessed] in Canone all'Ottava About this sound play 
Ecce Homo, mid 16th century stained glass panel from Germany


Below is the text of the first and last verse of the Passiontide hymn with the English translation of John Christian Jacobi.

Christus, der uns selig macht,
kein Bŏs's hat gegangen,
war für uns zur Mitternacht
als ein dieb gefangen,
geführt vor Gottlose Leut
und fälschlich verklaget,
verlacht, verhöhnt under verspeit,
wie den Schrift saget.
O hilf, Christe, Gottes Sohn,
durch dein bitter Leiden,
daß wir dir stets untertan
Sünd und Unrecht meiden,
deinen Tod und sein Ursach
fruchtbar nun bedenken,
dafür, wiewohl arm und schwach,
dir Dankopfer schenken.
Christ, by Whose all-saving Light
Mankind benefited,
Was for Sinners in the Night
As a Thief committed.
Dragged before a wicked Court
Of the Jewish Clergy;
Where they tried their worst Effort
'Gainst the Lord of Mercy.
Grant, O Jesu, blessed Lord,
By Thy Cross and Passion,
Thy blest Love may be adored
By the whole Creation:
Hating Sin, the woful Cause
Of Thy Death and Suffering,
Give our Heart to obey Thy Laws
As the best Thanks-offering.
  • BWV 621 Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund [As Jesus hung upon the Cross] About this sound play 
The Crucifixion, early 16C stained glass


Below is the text of the first and last verses of the Passiontide hymn with the English translation of Charles Sanford Terry.

Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund
und ihm sein Leib war ganz verwund't
mit bitterlichen Schmerzen,
die sieben Wort, die er da sprach,
betracht in deinem Herzen.
Wer Gottes Mart'r in Ehren hat,
und oft gedenckt der sieben Wort,
des will Gott eben pflegen,
wohl hier auf Erd'n mit seinem Gnad,
und dort im ewigen Leben.
When Jesus on the Cross was found,
His Body pierced with many a Wound,
With Torture very bitter;
The dying Words, which He then spake,
With a still Heart consider.
He who God's Pains in Honour has,
To whom our Saviour gives the Grace
To be in Heart possessing
And weigh these seven Gospel Words,
Enjoys a noble Blessing.
  • BWV 622 O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß [Oh Man, bewail your great sins] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
Autograph score of BWV 622, O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß
Twelve scenes from the life of Christ, 15C painting from Cologne


Below is the text of the first stanza of the hymn "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß" by Sebald Heyden with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross,
darum Christus seins Vaters Schoss
verliess und kam auf Erden.
Von einer Jungfrau rein und zart
für uns er hier geboren war:
er wollt der Mittler werden.
Den Toten er das Leben gab,
und legt dabei all Krankheit ab!
Bis sich die Zeit herdrange
daß er für uns geopfert würd
trug unser Sünd ein schwere Bürd
wohl an dem Kreuze lange.
O man, thy grievous sin bemoan,
For which Christ left His Father's throne,
From highest heaven descending.
Of Virgin pure and undefiled
He here was born, our Saviour mild,
For sin to make atonement.
The dead He raised to life again.
The sick He freed from grief and pain.
Until the time appointed
That He for us should give His Blood,
Should bear our sins' o'erwhelming load,
The shameful Cross enduring.

"O Mensch" is one of the most celebrated of Bach's chorale preludes. The cantus firmus, composed in 1525 by Matthias Greitter and associated with Whitsuntide, was also later used with the same words for the closing chorale of the first part of the St Matthew Passion, taken from the 1725 version of the St John Passion. Bach ornamented the simple melody, in twelve phrases reflecting the twelve lines of the opening verse, with an elaborate coloratura. It recalls but also goes beyond the ornamental chorale preludes of Buxtehude. The ornamentation, although employing coventional musical figures, is highly original and inventive. While the melody in the upper voice is hidden by coloratura over a wide range, the two inner voices are simple and imitative above the continuo-style bass. Bach varies the texture and colouring of the accompaniment for each line of what is one of the longest melodies in the collection.


In the penultimate line, accompanying the words "ein schwere Bürd" (a heavy burden), the inner parts intensify moving in semiquavers (16th notes) with the upper voice to a climax on the highest note in the prelude. The closing phrase, with its mounting chromatic bass accompanying bare unadorned crotchets (quarter notes) in the melody to end in an unexpected modulation to C♭ major, recall but again go beyond earlier compositions of Pachelbel, Frohberger and Buxtehude. It has been taken by some commentators as a musical allusion to the words kreuze lange in the text: for Spitta the passage was "full of imagination and powerful feeling." As Williams (2003) comments, however, the inner voices, "with their astonishing accented passing-notes transcend images, as does the sudden simplicity of the melody when the bass twice rises chromatically."

  • BWV 623 Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ [We give thanks to you, Lord Jesus Christ] About this sound play 
Man of Sorrows, early 16C stained glass from Steinfeld Abbey


Below is the text of the hymn with the English translation of Benjamin Hall Kennedy.

Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
daß du für uns gestorben bist
und hast uns durch dein teures Blut
gemacht vor Gott gerecht und gut,
Und bitten dich, wahr'r Mensch und Gott,
durch dein' heilig' fünf Wunden rot,
erlös' uns von dem ew'gen Tod
und tröst uns in der letzten Not!
Nehüt uns auch vor Sünd' und Schand',
reich uns dein' allmächtige Hand,
daß wir im Kreuz geduldig sei'n
uns trösten deiner schweren Pein
Und draus schöpfen die Zuversicht,
daß du uns werd'st verlaßen nicht,
sondern ganz treulich bei uns stehn,
bis wir durchs Kreuz ins Leben gehn.
We bless Thee, Jesus Christ our Lord;
For ever be Thy name adored:
For Thou, the sinless One, hast died
That sinners might be justified.
O very Man, and very God,
Redeem us with Thy precious blood;
From death eternal set us free,
And make us one with God in Thee.
From sin and shame defend us still.
And work in us Thy stedfast will,
The Cross with patience to sustain,
And bravely bear its utmost pain.
In Thee we trust, in Thee alone;
For Thou forsakest not Thine own:
To all the meek Thy strength is given,
Who by Thy Cross ascend to heaven.
  • BWV 624 Hilf, Gott, daß mir's gelinge [Help me, God, that I may succeed] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
The Transfiguration, early 16C stained glass from Mariawald Abbey near Cologne


Below is the text of the hymn with an English translation of the period.

Hilf, Gott, daß mirs gelinge,
du edler Schöpfer mein,
die Silben reimweis zwinge
Lob und Ehren dein,
daß ich mag fröhlich heben an,
von deinem Wort zu singen.
Herr, du wollst mir beistan.
Help, God, the format of all thing.
That to Thy gloir may be my dyte ;
Be baith at end and beginning,
That I may mak ane sang perfyte
Of Jesus Christis Passioun,
Sinnaris onlie Saluatioun,
As witnes is Thy word in write.

Easter BWV 625–630[edit]

  • BWV 625 Christ lag in Todesbanden [Christ lay in the bonds of death] About this sound play 
Entombment of Christ, early 16C stained glass from Steinfeld Abbey


Below is the Martin Luther's Easter hymn "Christ lag in Todesbanden" with the English translation of Paul England.

Christ lag in Todesbanden,
für unsre Sünd' gegeben,
der ist wieder erstanden
und hat uns bracht das Leben.
des wir sollen fröhlich sein,
Gott loben und dankbar sein
und singen: Halleluja!
Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg,
da Tod und Leben rungen;
das Leben, das behielt den Sieg,
es hat den Tod verschlungen.
Die Schrift hat verkündet das,
wie ein Tod den andern fraß,
ein Spott der Tod ist worden.
Christ lay in Death's dark prison,
It was our sin that bound Him;
This day hath He arisen,
And sheds new life around Him.
Therefore let us joyful be
And praise our God right heartily.
So sing we Hallelujah!
How fierce and dreadful was the strife
When Life with Death contended;
For Death was swallowed up by Life
And all his power was ended.
God of old, the Scriptures show,
Did promise that it should be so.
O Death, where's now thy victory?
  • BWV 626 Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod überwand [Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who conquered death] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Martin Luther's Easter hymn "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod überwand" with the English translation by George MacDonald.

Jesus Christus unser Heiland,
der den Tod überwand,
ist auferstanden,
die Sünd' hat er gefangen.
Kyrie eleison!
Jesus Christ, our Saviour true,
He who Death overthrew,
Is up arisen,
And sin hath put in prison.
  • BWV 627 Christ ist erstanden [Christ is risen] About this sound play 
Christ with angels, early 16C stained glass from Steinfeld Abbey
Last Judgement, Eichstätt, early 16C stained glass designed by Hans Holbein

Bwv627-verse-1.jpg Bwv627-verse-2.jpg Bwv627-verse-3.jpg

Below is the text of the three verses of the Easter hymn "Christ ist erstanden" with the English translation of Myles Coverdale.

Christ ist erstanden
Von der Marter alle,
Des solln wir alle froh sein,
Christ will unser Trost sein.
Wär er nicht erstanden,
So wär die Welt vergangen;
Seit daß er erstanden ist,
So lobn wir den Vater Jesu Christ.
Halleluja, Halleluja!
Des solln wir alle froh sein,
Christ will unser Trost sein.
Christe is now rysen agayne
From His death and all His payne:
Therfore wyll we mery be,
And rejoyse with Him gladly.
Had He not rysen agayne,
We had ben lost, this is playne:
But sen He is rysen in dede.
Let us love Hym all with spede.
Now is tyme of gladnesse.
To synge of the Lorde's goodnesse:
Therfore glad now wyll we be,
And rejoyse in Hym onely.
  • BWV 628 Erstanden ist der heil'ge Christ [The holy Christ is risen] About this sound play 


Below is the traditional Easter carol "Surrexit Christus hodie" in German and English translations.

Erstanden ist der heilge Christ, alleluia
der aller Welt ein Tröster ist alleluia.
Und wär er nicht erstanden, alleluia
so wär die Welt vergangen, alleluia.
Christ our Lord is Risen to-day, Hallelujah
Christ, our Life, our Light, our Way, Hallelujah.
The Object of our Love and Faith, Hallelujah
Who but died to conquer Death, Hallelujah.
  • BWV 629 Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag [The glorious day has come] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Nikolaus Herman's hymn with the English translation of Arthur Russell.

Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag,
dran sich niemand gnug freuen mag;
Christ, unser Herr, heut triumphiert,
all seine Feind er gefangen führt.
The day hath dawned — the day of days
Transcending all our joy and praise:
This day our Lord triumphant rose;
This day He captive led our foes.
  • BWV 630 Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn [Today the Son of God triumphs] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Caspar Stolshagen's Easter hymn by Bartholomäus Gesius with the English translation of George Ratcliffe Woodward.

Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn,
der von dem Tod erstanden schon,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
mit großer Pracht und Herrlichkeit,
des dankn wir ihm in Ewigkeit.
Halleluja, Halleluja.
Today God's only-gotten Son
Arose from death, and triumph won,
Alleluya, AUeluya,
In mighty pomp and rich array;
His therefore be the praise alway.
Alleluya, Alleluya.

Pentecost BWV 631–634[edit]

  • BWV 631 Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist [Come God, Creator, Holy Ghost] About this sound play 
Pentecost, early 17C stained glass from Wettingen Abbey in Switzerland


Below are the first and last verses of Martin Luther's hymn for Pentecost with the English translation of George MacDonald.

Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist,
besuch' das Herz der Menschen dein,
mit Gnaden sie füll', wie du weißt,
daß dein Geschöpf vorhin sein.
Gott Vater sei Lob und dem Sohn,
der von den Todten auferstund;
dem Tröster sei dasselb' gethan
in Ewigkeit alle Stund'.
Come, God, Creator, Holy Ghost,
Visit the heart of all Thy men;
Fill them with grace, the way Thou know'st;
What Thine was, make it again. '
Praise God the Father, and the Son,
Who from the dead arose in power;
Like praise to the Consoling One,
Evermore and every hour.
  • BWV 632 Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend [Lord Jesus Christ, turn to us] About this sound play 


Below are the first and third verses of this hymn by William, Duke of Saxe-Weimar with the English translation of John Christian Jacobi.

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend,
dein'n Heil'gen Geist du zu uns send!
mit Lieb' und Gnad', Herr, uns regier
und uns den Weg zu Wahrheit führ.
Bis wir singen mit Gottes Heer:
heilig, heilig ist Got der Herr!
und schauen dich von Angesicht
in ew'ger Freud' und sel'gem Licht.
Lord Christ, reveal Thy holy face,
And send the Spirit of Thy grace,
To fill our hearts with fervent zeal.
To learn Thy truth, and do Thy will.
Till we with angels join to sing
Eternal praise to Thee, our King;
Till we behold Thy face most bright,
In joy and everlasting light.
  • BWV 633 Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (distinctius) [Dearest Jesus, we are here] in Canone alla Quinta, a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 
Supper at Emmaus, early 16C German stained glass


  • BWV 634 Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier [Dearest Jesus, we are here] in Canone alla Quinta, a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Tobias Clausnitzer's hymn with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier,
dich und dein Wort anzuhören;
lenke Sinnen und Begier
auf die süßen Himmelslehren,
daß die Herzen von der Erden
ganz zu dir gezogen werden.
Blessed Jesu, at Thy word
We are gathered all to hear Thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear Thee,
By Thy teachings sweet and holy
Draw from earth to love Thee solely.

Catechism hymns BWV 635–638[edit]

Albrecht Dürer: Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, stained glass panel, Jakobskirche, Straubing
  • BWV 635 Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot [These are the ten commandments] About this sound play 
Hans Brosamer, 1550: woodcut in Luther's Small Catechism of Christ teaching His disciples the Lord's Prayer


Below are the first and last two verses of the Lutheran catechism hymn of the Ten Commandments with an English translation by George MacDonald.

Dies sind die heil'gen Zehn Gebot',
die uns gab unser Herre Gott
durch Moses, seinen Diener treu,
hoch auf dem Berg Sinai.
Die Gebot all' uns geben sind,
daß du dein' Sünd', o Menschenkind,
erkennen sollst und lernen wohl,
wie man vor Gott leben soll.
Das helf' uns der Herr Jesus Christ,
der unser Mittler worden ist;
es ist mit unserm Tun verlor'n,
verdienen doch eitel Zorn.
These are the holy ten commands,
Which came to us from God's own hands,
By Moses, who obeyed His will,
On the top of Sinai's hill.
To us come these commands, that so
Thou, son of man, thy sins mayst know.
And with this lesson thy heart fill,
That man must live for God's will.
May Christ our Lord help us in this,
For He our mediator is;
Our own work is a hopeless thing,
Wrath alone all it can bring.
  • BWV 636 Vater unser im Himmelreich [Our Father who art in Heaven] About this sound play 


Below are the first and last verses of the Lutheran version of the Lord's Prayer with the English translation of George MacDonald.

Vater unser im Himmelreich,
der du uns alle heißest gleich
Brüder sein und dich rufen an
und willst das Beten von uns hab'n,
gib, daß nicht bet' allein der Mund,
hilf, daß es geh' von Herzensgrund!
Amen, das ist, es werde wahr!
stärk unsern Glauben immerdar,
auf daß wir ja nicht zweifeln dran,
was wir hiermit gebeten hab'n
auf dein Wort in dem Namen dein;
so sprechen wir das Amen fein.
Our Father in the heaven Who art,
Who tellest all of us in heart
Brothers to be, and on Thee call,
And wilt have prayer from us all,
Grant that the mouth not only pray,
From deepest heart oh help its way.
Amen ! that is, let this come true!
Strengthen our faith ever anew,
That we may never be in doubt
Of that we here have prayed about.
In Thy name, trusting in Thy word.
We say a soft Amen, O Lord.
  • BWV 637 Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt [Through Adam's fall are wholly ruined] About this sound play 
Fall of Adam, 16C stained glass from Steinfeld Abbey


Below are the first and seventh verses of the hymn of Lazarus Spengler with an English translation by John Christian Jacobi.

Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt
menschlich Natur und Wesen,
dasselb Gift ist auf uns errebt,
daß wir nicht mocht'n genesen
ohn' Gottes Trost, der uns erlöst
hat von dem großen Schaden,
darein die Schlang Eva bezwang,
Gotts Zorn auf sich zu laden.
Wer hofft in Gott und dem vertraut,
wird nimmermehr zu Schanden;
denn wer auf diesen Felsen baut,
ob ihm gleich geht zuhanden
wie Unfalls hie, hab ich doch nie
den Menschen sehen fallen,
der sich verläßt auf Gottes Trost,
er hilft sein Gläub'gen allen.
When Adam fell, the frame entire
Of nature was infected;
The source, whence came the poison dire,
Was not to be corrected:
The lust accursed, indulged at first,
Brought death as its production;
But God's free grace hath saved our race
From misery and destruction.
But, who makes God his Hope and trust,
Shall never be confounded:
No Cleaver to this Rock is lost,
Thou' ev'ry where surrounded
With daring foes and trying woes;
His Faith yet stands unshaken.
Who loves the Lord shall by no sword
Or woe be overtaken.
  • BWV 638 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her [Salvation has come to us] About this sound play 


The first verse of this hymn of Paul Speratus is given below with the English translation of John Christian Jacobi.

Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
von Gnad' und lauter Güte,
die Werke helfen nimmermehr,
sie mögen nicht behüten,
der Glaub' sieht Jesus Christus an
der hat g'nug für uns all' getan,
er ist der Mittler worden.
Our whole salvation doth depend
On God's free grace and Spirit;
Our fairest works can ne'er defend
A boast in our own merit:
Derived is all our righteousness
From Christ and His atoning grace;
He is our Mediator.

Miscellaneous BWV 639–644[edit]

Autograph manuscript of Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639
  • BWV 639 Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Johann Agricola's hymn with the English translation of John Christian Jacobi.

Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
ich bitt, erhör mein Klagen;
verleih mir Gnad zu dieser Frist,
laß mich doch nicht verzagen.
Den rechten Glauben, Herr, ich mein,
den wollest du mir geben,
dir zu leben,
meim Nächsten nütz zu sein,
dein Wort zu halten eben.
Lord, hear the voice of my complaint,
To Thee I now commend me,
Let not my heart and hope grow faint,
But deign Thy grace to send me.
True faith from Thee, my God, I seek,
The faith that loves Thee solely.
Keeps me lowly,
And prompt to aid the weak,
And mark each word that Thou dost speak.

"Ich ruf zu dir" is amongst the most popular chorale preludes in the collection. Pure in style, this ornamental chorale prelude has been described as "a supplication in time of despair." Written in the meantone key of F minor, it is the unique prelude in trio form with voices in the two manuals and the pedal. It is possible that the unusual choice of key followed Bach's experience playing the new organ at Halle which employed more modern tuning. The ornamented melody in crotchets (quarter notes) sings in the soprano above a flowing legato semiquaver (16th note) accompaniment and gently pulsating repeated quavers (eighth notes) in the pedal continuo. Such viol-like semiquaver figures in the middle voice already appeared as "imitatio violistica" in the Tabalutara nova (1624) of Samuel Scheidt. The instrumental combination itself was used elsewhere by Bach: in the third movement of the cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180 for soprano, violoncello piccolo and continuo; and the 19th movement of the St John Passion, with the middle voice provided by semiquaver arpeggios on the lute.

  • BWV 640 In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr [In you have I put my hope, Lord] About this sound play 
Raising of Lazarus, early 16C stained glass from Mariawald Abbey near Cologne


Below is the first verse of the hymn of Adam Reissner with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

In dich hab' ich gehoffet, Herr,
hilf, daß ich nicht zuschanden werd'
noch ewiglich zu Spotte!
Das bitt' ich dich,
erhalte mich
in deiner Treu', mein Gotte!
In Thee, Lord, have I put my trust,
Leave me not helpless in the dust,
Let not my hope be brought to shame,
But still sustain,
Through want and pain.
My faith that Thou art aye the same.
  • BWV 641 Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein [When we are in the greatest distress] a 2 Clav. et Ped. About this sound play 


Below are the first two verses of the hymn of Paul Eber with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein
und wissen nicht, wo aus noch ein,
und finden weder Hilf' noch Rat,
ob wir gleich sorgen früh und spat:
So ist dies unser Trost allein,
daß wir zusammen insgemein
dich rufen an, o treuer Gott,
um Rettung aus der Angst und Not.
When in the hour of utmost need
We know not where to look for aid,
When days and nights of anxious thought
Nor help nor counsel yet have brought,
Then this our comfort is alone,
That we may meet before Thy throne,
And cry, O faithful God, to Thee,
For rescue from our misery.

The cantus firmus of this ornamental chorale prelude was written by Louis Bourgeois in 1543. It was used again the last of the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, BWV 668. The accompaniment in the two middle voices, often in parallel sixths, and the pedal is derived from the first four notes of the melody. The highly ornate ornamentation is rare amongst Bach's chorale preludes, the only comparable example being BWV 662 from the Great Eighteen. The vocal ornamentation and portamento appoggiaturas of the melody are French in style. Coloratura passages lead into the unadorned notes of the cantus firmus. Williams (2003) describes this musical device, used also in BWV 622 and BWV 639, as a means of conveying "a particular kind of touching, inexpressible expressiveness." The prelude has an intimate charm: as Albert Schweitzer commented, the soprano part flows "like a divine song of consolation, and in a wonderful final cadence seems to silence and compose the other parts."

  • BWV 642 Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten [He who allows dear God to lead him] About this sound play 
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, early 16C Flemish stained glass


Below are the first and last verses of the hymn of Georg Neumark with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten
und hoffet auf ihn allezeit,
den wird er wunderlich erhalten
in allem Kreuz und Traurigkeit.
Wer Gott, dem Allerhöchsten, traut,
der hat auf keinen Sand gebaut.
Sing, bet und geh auf Gottes Wegen,
verricht das Deine nur getreu
und trau des Himmels reichem Segen,
so wird er bei dir werden neu;
denn welcher sine Zuversicht
auf Gott setzt, den verläßt er nicht.
If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee.
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the rock that nought can move.
Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving.
So do thine own part faithfully.
And trust His word ; though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee —
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.
  • BWV 643 Alle Menschen müssen sterben [All mankind must die] About this sound play 


Below are the first and last two verses of the funeral hymn of Johann Georg Albinus with the English translation of Catherine Winkworth.

Alle Menschen müßen sterben,
alles Fleisch vergeht wie Heu;
was da lebet, muß verderben,
soll es anders werden neu.
Dieser Leib, der muß verwesen,
wenn er anders soll genesen
zu der großen Herrlichkeit,
die den Frommen ist bereit.
O Jerusalem, du Schöne,
ach, wie helle glänzest du!
Ach, wie lieblich Lobgetöne
hört man da in sanfter Ruh'!
O der großen Freud' und Wonne!
Jetzund gehet auf die Sonne,
jetzund gehet an der Tag,
der kein Ende nehmen mag.
Ach, ich habe schon erblicket
diese große Herrlichkeit!
Jetzund werd' ich schön geschmücket
mit dem weißen Himmelskleid
und der goldnen Ehrenkrone,
stehe da vor Gottes Throne,
schaue solche Fruede an,
die kein Ende nehmen kann.
Hark! a voice saith, All are mortal,
Yea, all flesh must fade as grass,
Only through Death's gloomy portal
To a better life ye pass,
And this body, formed of clay,
Here must languish and decay.
Ere it rise in glorious might,
Fit to dwell with saints in light.
O Jerusalem, how clearly
Dost thou shine, thou city fair!
Lo ! I hear the tones more nearly
Ever sweetly sounding there!
Oh what peace and joy hast thou!
Lo the sun is rising now,
And the breaking day I see
That shall never end for me!
Yea, I see what here was told me.
See that wondrous glory shine.
Feel the spotless robes enfold me.
Know a golden crown is mine;
So before the throne I stand.
One amid that glorious band,
Gazing on that joy for aye
That shall never pass away!

BWV 643 is one of the most perfect examples of Bach's Orgelbüchlein style. A mood of ecstasy permeates this chorale prelude, a funeral hymn reflecting the theme of heavenly joy. The simple cantus firmus sings in crotchets (quarter notes) above an accompanying motif of three semiquavers (16th notes) followed by two quavers (eighth notes) that echoes between the two inner parts and the pedal. This figure is also found in the organ works of Georg Böhm and Daniel Vetter from the same era. Schweitzer (1911b) describes its use by Bach as a motif of "beatific peace", commenting that "the melody of the hymn that speaks of the inevitability of death is thus enveloped in a motif that is lit up by the coming glory." Despite the harmonious thirds and sixths in the inner parts, the second semiquaver of the motif produces a momentary dissonance that is instantly resolved, again contributing to the mood of joy tinged by sadness. As Spitta (1899) comments, "What tender melancholy lurks in the chorale, Alle Menschen müßen sterben, what an indescribable expressiveness, for instance, arises in the last bar from the false relation between c♯ and c', and the almost imperceptible ornamentation of the melody!"

  • BWV 644 Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig [Oh how fleeting, oh how feckless] About this sound play 


Below is the first verse of Michael Franck's hymn with the English translation of Sir John Bowring.

Ach wie flüchtig,
ach wie nichtig
ist der Menschen Leben!
Wie Ein Nebel bald enstehet
und auch wie der bald vergehet
so ist unser Leben sehet!
O how cheating,
O how fleeting,
Is our earthly being!
'Tis a mist in wintry weather,
Gathered in an hour together,
And as soon dispersed in ether.


Small organ in the Marienkirche in Halle which Bach played in 1713 in an audition for organist and subsequently evaluated in 1716

The Orgelbüchlein was originally passed from teacher to student and was not published in its entirety until Felix Mendelssohn edited an edition. Notable editions have been made by Robert Clark and John David Peterson, Quentin Faulkner, Albert Riemenschneider, and Albert Schweitzer.


Arranger and instrumentation Published title Original chorale prelude by BWV number
Johann Nepomuk Schelble, piano duet Var. Choraele fürs P.f. zu 4 Haenden eingerichtet, Dunst, undated. BWV 620a, 614, 622
Adolph Bernhard Marx, piano Anzahl aus Sebastian Bach's Kompositionen, zur ersten Bekanntschaft mit dem Meister am Pianoforte, Challier, 1844. BWV 614, 619
Ferruccio Busoni, piano Orgelchoralvorspiele von Johann Sebastian Bach: Auf das Pianoforte im Kammerstyl übertragen, 2 vols, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1898. BWV 615, 617, 637, 639
Max Reger, piano Ausgewählte Choralvorspiele von Joh. Seb. Bach: Für Klavier zu 2 Händen übertragen, Universal Edition, 1900. BWV 614, 622, 637, 639, 644
Bernhard Friedrich Richter, piano duet Joh. Seb. Bachs Werke, Nach der Ausgabe der Bachgesellschaft. Orgelbüchlein: 46 kürzere Choralbearbaitungen für Klavier zu vier Händen, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1902. BWV 599-644
Max Reger, string orchestra Johann Sebastian Bach: "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross." Aria nach dem Choralvorspiel für Streichorchester bearbeitet, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1915 BWV 622
Max Reger, violin and organ Album für Violine mit Orgelbegleitung, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1915 BWV 622
Leopold Stokowski, orchestra Arrangements of several of the chorale preludes for the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1916–1926 BWV 599, 639
Walter Rummel, piano Adaptations, Ser. 1 (J.S. Bach), J. & W. Chester, 1922 BWV 614
Vittorio Gui, orchestra Due corale di J.S. Bach. Trascritti dall' organo per orchestra, Universal Edition, 1925. BWV 615, 622
Harry Hodge, string orchestra Johann Sebastian Bach: organ choral preludes arranged for strings, Patterson's Publications, 1926. BWV 600, 639
William Murdoch, piano Johann Sebastian Bach: organ choral preludes arranged for pianoforte, Schott, 1928 BWV 622, 639
Marco Enrico Bossi, violin or viola and organ Johann Sebastian Bach: "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross." Edition Euterpe, 1929 BWV 622
Arthur Bliss, piano A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen: Transcriptions for Pianoforte from the works of J.S. Bach, Oxford University Press, 1932 BWV 614
Herbert Howells, piano A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen: Transcriptions for Pianoforte from the works of J.S. Bach, Oxford University Press, 1932 BWV 622
Constant Lambert, piano A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen: Transcriptions for Pianoforte from the works of J.S. Bach, Oxford University Press, 1932 BWV 605
Harry S. Hirsch, oboe, clarinet, bassoon Johann Sebastian Bach: I Call Upon Thy Name O Jesus, Carl Fischer, 1934 BWV 639
Alexander Kelberine, piano Joh. Seb. Bach: Organ Chorale Prelude, "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ", Elkan-Vogel, 1934 BWV 639
Mabel Wood-Hill, string quartet/orchestra J.S. Bach: Chorale Preludes, R.D. Roe, 1935. BWV 615, 619, 623
Eric DeLamarter, string orchestra J.S. Bach: Chorale Prelude Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, Ricordi, 1940 BWV 614
Amedeo de Filippi, string quartet/orchestra Johann Sebastian Bach: Blessed Jesus, We Are Here (Chorale Prelude), Concord 1940. BWV 633
Boris Goldovsky, 2 pianos J.S. Bach: Oh, How Fleeting, J. Fischer and Bro., 1940. BWV 644
Felix Guenther, piano Johann Sebastian Bach: 24 chorale preludes compiled and arranged for piano, solo, Edward B. Marks, 1942 BWV 814, 615, 623, 639
Max Reger, piano Johann Sebastian Bach: drei Orgelchoralvorspiele, für Klavier gearbeitet, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1943, BWV 606, 638
Charles Henry Stuart Duncan, 2 pianos Johann Sebastian Bach: eleven chorale preludes from the little organ book, Schirmer, 1949 BWV 600, 601, 608, 609, 610, 625, 627, 633, 636, 637, 643
Anne Hull, 2 pianos Johann Sebastian Bach: Chorale Preulde In dir ist Freude, Carl Fischer, 1950 BWV 615
Wilhelm Kempff, piano Johann Sebstian Bach: Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Choralvorspiel), Bote & Bock, 1954 BWV 639
György Kurtág, 2 pianos Transcriptions from Machaut to J.S. Bach, Editio Musica Budapest, 1985. BWV 611, 618, 619, 637, 643, 644


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Geck 2005, p. 91
  2. ^ Stinson 1991, pp. 3–10
  3. ^ Haupt 2000 Example of a possible registration for BWV 605 with glockenspiel. About this sound play 
  4. ^ See:
  5. ^ See:
  6. ^ See:
  7. ^ See:
  8. ^ Williams 2003, p. 236
  9. ^ Williams, Peter. The Organ Music of J. S. Bach, p. 266 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).


External links[edit]