BWV 639

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ

BWV 639 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"It's really rubbed in: This is not your usual lament, it is thoroughly, thoroughly sad."

"Never before was Jesus called on so movingly"

The indecisiveness of mankind cloaked in deceptive simplicity

Still waters run deep. There is far more happening in this simple chorale prelude than would appear at first hearing. The slow, gentle melody of Agricola’s 16th-century hymn ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ is supported by the pedal in a calmly progressing accompaniment. But appearances are deceptive, as the tenor writhes submissively in despair in the background. The words of the chorale sketch a picture of a doubting man who clings to Christ, while wondering whether he is equal to the task of living in accordance with Christ’s word. Bach combines the various ingredients of this trio – the only one in the Orgelbüchlein – into a three-dimensional whole. Never before was Jesus called on so movingly, thought the Dutch author Maarten ‘t Hart. And we can hardly argue with that.

 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. 


BWV
639

Title
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

series
Orgelbüchlein

Year
1708-1717

City
Weimar

special notes
A variation on this arrangement, BWV Anh. II 73, is not by Bach.

Cast & Crew

release date 3 July 2015
recording date 21 October 2014
LOCATION St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
Organ Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Reconstruction: Flentrop 2013.
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA ASSISTANTS Andreas Grotevent, Lucas Lütz
MUSIC PRODUCTION, EDITING AND MIX Holger Schlegel
FILM EDITOR Jasper Verkaart
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Hanna Schreuders
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts

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Translation

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