BWV 664

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

BWV 664 performed by Reitze Smits
Lutheran church, The Hague

"It's a joyous piece like a trio sonata for two violins and a bass part."

Heavenly joy

Bach gives an Italian touch to the radiant finale of his Gloria trilogy.

On a first hearing, this piece might only just count as a chorale arrangement, as we have to wait until almost the end to gain a recognisable glimpse of the popular melody Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, a German adaptation of the Gloria. But just as in BWV 662 and 663, the theme is actually everywhere (the virtuoso runs skirt or ornament the melody), only now Bach is hiding it behind an exuberant dancy piece pervaded by Italian elegance.
The reason for so much cheerfulness is not only a musical one, although Bach has clearly enjoyed himself in the clear, virtuoso sonata style from across the Alps. He even gives two imitations of the arpeggios or broken chords heard so often in Venetian violin music. But Bach goes further and imbues the piece with strong Trinity symbolism that is deeply rooted in Luther’s sermons. If we regard BWV 662 as a rendition of the Father and 663 as the Son, then this chorale arrangement is unmistakeably a reflection of the Holy Ghost, the Giver of Life, whom Luther always portrayed as the source of joy and comfort in his Whitsun sermons. The Holy Ghost promises that mankind can share in the lightness of the angels. So nothing could be more natural than two (heavenly?) voices tumbling over one another above a simple baroque bass line. And when the original melody does surface suddenly amidst their revelry, that is where you hear Bach’s genius. In order to emphasise his devotion, he also signed the work with S.D.G.: ‘Soli Deo Gloria’.

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
664

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
There are three known sources: a draft and an early version from Weimar (664b and a) and the Leipzig version (664).

Cast & Crew

release date 24 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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