BWV 624

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Hilf Gott, dass mir's gelinge

BWV 624 performed by Bart Jacobs
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

"The piece fascinates me. I have always felt that something is not right about it."

Prison hymn

Why Bach probably created a deliberately awkward whole.

The words of the hymn arranged here by Bach were written in a sixteenth-century prison by Heinrich Müller, who was otherwise virtually unknown. His name appears at two places in the text. The first letters of the thirteen verses form his name (“HEINRICH MÜLER”) and the last strophe concludes with the announcement: “hat Heinrich Müller gesungen, in dem Gefängnis sein” (thus sang Heinrich Müller, during his imprisonment). This Heinrich from Nuremberg was imprisoned by the Duke of Saxony around 1526 because of his Lutheran sympathies, and he was only released in 1539.

Müller’s hymn – maybe due to its genesis – was very successful. In 1545, Luther himself included it in a hymn book and it was published in a Dutch translation just a few years later. In Bach’s day, it was one of the better known church hymns.

Bach’s organ version, as organist Bart Jacobs remarks, was probably a deliberately rather awkward harmonic and canonic whole, with a left hand that searches around capriciously from high to low. Maybe Bach also thought it might not be so easy to keep constant faith if you were imprisoned for your religious beliefs for over ten years.

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.   


Hilf Gott, dass mir's gelinge

organ work (chorale arrangement)


ca. 1708-1717


Cast & Crew

Release date 20 October 2017
Recording date 22 September 2016
Location St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
Organist Bart Jacobs
Organ Christian Müller, 1738
Director Bas Wielenga
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
Lights Gregoor van de Kamp
Producer Jessie Verbrugh
Interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts




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