BWV 642

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten

BWV 642 performed by Dorien Schouten
Bovenkerk, Kampen

"It's a powerful piece with a lot of hooha going on."

Brisk gait

Bach uses a short rhythmic motif to underline the mood of the chorale text.

Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten comes towards the end of the Orgelbüchlein. It is one of a small group of chorales that do not have a precise place in the ecclesiastical year. They were probably included because they were popular or often used in Weimar, where Bach composed the Orgelbüchlein.

The words and the melody of Wer nur den lieben Gott are by Georg Neumark (1621-1681), librarian, secretary and court poet in Weimar. In the year of his death, he wrote about the origins of the hymn. Following misfortune and great poverty during a stay in Hamburg in the winter of 1641-42, he suddenly found a job, “which sudden fortune that appeared to have fallen from heaven made me extremely happy, and directly on the first day – in honour of my beloved God – I wrote the widely known hymn Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten”. Another source adds that he had had to pawn his viola da gamba, which he played superbly, and was very happy to get back again.

The words of the hymn thus express optimism and trust, sentiments that are not so easily translated into music. Yet Bach appears to have been thinking along those lines. Below the chorale melody, there is a continual lively anapest (two short notes and one long), with no complicated counterpoint, but in harmonious parallel thirds, resulting in a brisk gait. However, you can also give a more martial interpretation of this movement, as organist Dorien Schouten does. She talks about it in her interview.

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. 


Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten

organ work (chorale arrangement)


ca. 1708-1717


Cast & Crew

release date 22 July 2016
recording date 1 October 2015
LOCATION Bovenkerk, Kampen
ORGANIST Dorien Schouten
Organ Reil choir organ
FILM DIRECTORS Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
CAMERA Maarten van Rossem, Gijs Besseling
Film editor and interview Gijs Besseling
Producer Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts




You might also like these works