BWV 617

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf

BWV 617 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Martin's Church, Groningen

"When you find a balance, it sounds unequalled" - Leo van Doeselaar on the importance of proper registration.

Battle-weary to the next world

An ingenious little three-voice work accompanies Simeon’s soul to eternal rest.

Though this is a tiny piece of organ music, its expressive power is undiminished. In this chorale arrangement, Bach aptly illustrated the text from the 1713 Geistreiches Gesangbuch from Weimar: ‘I have suffered and fought, but now my life is at an end and I can die in peace’. These are the words of the aged Simeon, who has seen his Saviour, as God had promised him. The legato yet persistent melody is played on the upper keyboard, while the left hand represents the restless feet anxious to enter the next world. Meanwhile, the pedal knocks steadily at the gates of heaven, in the firm conviction that the reward for earthly labours is close at hand. 

Orgelbüchlein, BWV 599-644
During his time as court organist at Weimar (1708-1714), Bach already started compiling his first collection of chorale arrangements and chorale preludes (compositions based on Lutheran hymns). They were intended to be used in church services, and the preludes were an introduction to congregational singing. According to the list of contents in Bach’s manuscript, it was supposed to have been a collection of 164 compositions, but in the end it did not exceed 46 (BWV 599-644). The order, combined with the limited length of the pieces, indicates that Bach was planning to compile a complete cycle of chorale arrangements. 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. 


BWV
617

Title
Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

Series
Orgelbüchlein

year
ca. 1708-1717

city
Weimar

Cast & Crew

release date 30 May 2014
recording date 8 October 2013
location St. Martin's Church, Groningen
organ Arp Schnitger, 1692
organist Leo van Doeselaar
ORGAN REGISTRATION Tim Knigge
PRODUCer Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTORS Jan Van den Bossche, Frank van der Weij
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Jorrit Garretsen, Sal Kroonenberg
MUSIC PRODUCTION, EDITING AND MIX Holger Schlegel
FILM EDITOR Dylan Glyn Jones
Colorist Jef Grosfeld
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Marco Meijdam, Zoë de Wilde
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Jan Haak

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

Print

You might also like these works