BWV 612

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Wir Christenleut

BWV 612 performed by Theo Jellema
Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof

"Bach wrote a bass which is uncoordinated at first sight. This could be an expression of great joy."

Perpetuum mobile

Jesus’ descent to earth is clearly audible.

The first note you hear in this piece is the first note of the hymn Wir Christenleut. That is probably just as well, otherwise we might find the chorale melody being swamped by the cheerfully descending runs. They are prominently present, like a sort of perpetuum mobile. But Bach knew what he was doing. Moreover, in his day everyone knew the melody of this popular Christmas hymn like the back of their hand. The words are about Christ, who redeemed mankind by coming down to earth as a man. So here, the downward runs in the middle parts could symbolise the descent of God’s son to earth, while the chorale melody resounds proudly above the earth in the upper part. The festive joy is heightened by the quavers in the pedal.

Orgelbüchlein, BWV 599-644
During his time as court organist at Weimar (1708-1714), Bach already started compiling his first collection of chorale arrangements of Lutheran hymns. According to the list of contents, it was supposed to have been a collection of 164 compositions, but in the end it did not exceed 46. The order, combined with the limited length of the pieces, indicates that Bach was planning to compile a complete cycle of chorale preludes for the church. Later, in his period at Köthen, he gave the collection a title page, which reads: Orgel-Büchlein, Worinne einem anfahenden Organisten Anleitung gegeben wird, auff allerhand Arth einen Choral durchzuführen… (Little organ book, in which a beginner organist is taught to arrange a chorale in all sorts of ways...). So at the time, he intended the collection just as a teaching manual, maybe to present on his application in 1722 for the post of cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, which was an important teaching position. The pupils must have had a hard time of it, as the preludes contain the complete range of Baroque keyboard techniques in a nutshell. 


Wir Christenleut

organ work (chorale arrangement)


ca. 1708-1717


Special notes
Included in a manuscript with 45 other chorale preludes. It was only in 1722, in Köthen, that the manuscript was given a title page stating Orgelbüchlein.

Cast & Crew

release date 13 January 2017
recording date 24 August 2015
LOCATION Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof
ORGANIST Theo Jellema
organ Christoph Treutmann, 1731
DIRECTOR and editor Onno van Ameijde
Camera Maarten van Rossem, Onno van Ameijde
MUSIC recording, EDIT AND MIX Holger Schlegel
interview Onno van Ameijde
Producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts




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