BWV 665

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

BWV 665 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"Every line of text gets an incredible dramatic charge; Bach goes all out."

Suffering for the sacrificial bread

Bach was clearly inspired by the words ‘bitter Leiden’ (bitter suffering), which Luther added to a mediaeval hymn.

In 1524, Martin Luther based the words and melody of the chorale 'Jesus Christus unser Heiland', as he often did, on an older hymn. In this case, he chose the fifteenth-century hymn 'Jesus Christus nostra salus', which was then attributed to Jan Hus, a Bohemian forerunner of the Reformation. 'Jesus Christus unser Heiland' is a Eucharist hymn, intended to be sung during Holy Communion. The words underline the transformation of Christ’s body and blood into bread and wine for the salvation of Christians. The specification ‘sub communione’ for BWV 665 confirms that Bach’s arrangement was also used in the celebration of Holy Communion. In this setting – originally composed in Weimar and later adapted slightly in Leipzig – each of the four lines of the chorale melody is heard four times: twice with ornamentation but clearly recognisable in the upper parts, then once straightforwardly in the pedal and finally once again with ornamentation in the top part.

While the first strophe of the Latin hymn speaks of Christ giving himself to us as sacrificial bread, Luther rewrote it more colourfully, adding that he did so ‘through his bitter suffering’ (‘durch das bitter Leiden sein’). It was clearly this line – the third one – that Bach wanted to emphasise here. In doing so, he wears himself out in criss-crossing chromatic lines that run from up to down and from down to up again. So as the congregations in Weimar and Leipzig received the bread and wine, they were able to hear Christ’s bitter 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
665

Title
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

series
18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle

Year
1708-1717/1739-1742

City
Weimar/Leipzig

Cast & Crew

release date 20 November 2015
recording date 21 October 2014
LOCATION St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
Organ Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Restoration: 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
interview Onno van Ameijde
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Hanna Schreuders
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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