BWV 666

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

BWV 666 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

Above this arrangement, Bach wrote alio modo; ‘in a different way’. It is different to BWV 665, the larger version of the piece. “It’s not a sort of variation. It’s really totally different”, says Leo van Doeselaar.

Free association

In this chorale arrangement, Bach almost seems to be improvising.

Unlike Bach’s other organ arrangement of Jesus Christus, unser Heiland (BWV 665), this version is sometimes almost improvisational in character. There is little overt interpretation of the words of this Communion hymn about the salutary effect of the body and blood of Christ. Maybe Bach’s main concern here was the development of musical ideas. For instance, the series of fast notes that introduces the second line of the chorale melody with a flourish becomes a continually streaming cascade in the third and fourth lines. As Bach’s own interpretation of the text is less clear in this arrangement, BWV 666 allows more scope for personal and place-related associations, both in Bach’s day and today.
At the end, for example, there is an upward spiral movement that descends again towards the close, harmonically grating against a sustained low note in the pedal. It appears to be a musical decoration, like a pen flourish at the end of an eighteenth-century letter. Or could it be an expression of the conviction that God will release us from the ‘torments of hell’, as the words of the first stanza tell us? Or maybe on hearing this big musical arc at the end of the piece, the listeners in the church in Weimar instinctively thought of Lucas Cranach’s striking altarpiece there. A similar arc on the painting depicts a spurt of blood from Christ’s side landing on the head of the painter’s self-portrait.

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.


Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

organ work (chorale arrangement)

18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle



Cast & Crew

publicatiedatum 31 July 2015
date 23 June 2014
LOCATION Walloon Church, Amsterdam
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
Organ Christian Müller, 1734
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg, Ruben van den Broeke
Grip Antoine Petiet
FILM EDITOR Dylan Glyn Jones
COLORIST Jef Grosfeld
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Marco Meijdam, Zoë de Wilde
interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts




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