BWV 651

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Fantasia super: Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott

BWV 651 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"The only constant in Bach's oeuvre is that he always tries to trip you up."

Speaking in tongues

In all the commotion, the bass is a beacon of tranquillity.

The overwhelming opening of this grand chorale fantasia refers almost literally to the opening lines of Acts 2 from the Bible, which say about Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.
The underlying melody, which Bach used for various Pentecost cantatas, is heard in the pedal, but only after the drone of a sustained note (a ‘pedal point’) has resounded in our ears. Watch also the interview where Leo van Doeselaar explains this.
Then – with short interruptions – we are presented with the whole chorale melody, which remains a beacon of tranquillity in the midst of the notes tumbling over one another in the upper parts. As in the much shorter original version of this chorale, which most probably originated in Weimar, Bach imaginatively draws on many different compositions. He does so, for instance, in his fervent illustration of the commotion of ‘speaking in tongues’, to which the words of the chorale also refer. Finally, all the turbulence ends in a short but powerful hallelujah.

18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle, BWV 651-668
In the last ten years of his life, Bach gathered together and completed a series of eighteen chorale arrangements, presumably planning to have them published, just like the third part of the Clavier-Übung in 1739. It concerns a selection of his compositions from much earlier years, when he was working as an organist in Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. The collection became known as the 18 Choräle or Leipziger Choräle.


Fantasia super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott

organ work (chorale arrangement)

18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle



Special notes
Part of a manuscript of 18 chorale arrangements, BWV 651-668, which Bach collected in the 1740s, and of which the earliest versions sometimes originated in his Weimar period.

Cast & Crew

release date 19 February 2016
recording date 21 October 2014
LOCATION St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
organ Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Reconstruction: Flentrop 2013.
Producer Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
Director of photography Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA ASSISTANTS Andreas Grotevent, Lucas Lütz
FILM EDITOR Jasper Verkaart
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts




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