BWV 663

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

BWV 663 performed by Reitze Smits
Lutheran church, The Hague

"As a musician you seldom see Bach being quite so obvious about the character of the piece."

Full of symbolism

Bach paints a clear picture of Jesus’ sacrifice, without saying a word.

In three connected yet very different movements in the Leipziger Choräle, Bach portrays the Trinity. His central arrangement of the Gloria melody, which was sung every week, portrays the Son, following the Father (BWV 662) and preceding the Holy Ghost (BWV 664).

In this remarkably long, well-balanced work, the chorale melody is not in the upper part, but in the tenor, which is the traditional place of Jesus between heaven and earth. It is written in 3/2 time, just as many chorales in the Orgelbüchlein that concern the Passion and, for example, the Crucifixus in the Mass in B minor. Just before the repeat in the middle, the cantus firmus (the chorale melody) rises above the upper parts for a moment, where the words refer to Jesus’ heavenly dominion. Near the end, after a florid solo, the music almost comes to a stop on the word ‘Not’ (need) and then proceeds in a straight line to the radiant ending ‘erbarm dich unser aller’, where the chorale melody is suddenly accompanied by an extra figured part. Probably the most beautiful symbolism is provided by the refined ornamentation of the melody, sometimes buoyantly virtuoso and sometimes tormentedly chromatic - symbolic of Jesus’ life and suffering?

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.


BWV
663

Title
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

Series
18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle

year
1708-1717/1739-1742

city
Weimar/Leipzig

Special notes
BWV 663a is an earlier version of this chorale arrangement.

Cast & Crew

release date 10 October 2014
recording date 29 November 2013
LOCATION Lutheran Church, The Hague
ORGAN Johann Heinrich Hartmann Bätz, 1762
ORGANIST Reitze Smits
ORGAN REGISTRATION Arjan de Vos
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Jorrit Garretsen, Sal Kroonenberg
MUSIC PRODUCTION, EDITING AND MIX Holger Schlegel
FILM EDITOR Dylan Glyn Jones
COLORIST Jef Grosfeld
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Imke Deters, Zoë de Wilde
interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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