BWV 676

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

BWV 676 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"It all seems perfect: mathematically and scientifically immaculate, but he interrupts that so imaginatively."

Cheerful jubilation

This is Bach’s interpretation of the singing of angels.

The dominant tone of this carefree chorale trio is one of jubilation. This is logical, as the hymn that lies at the heart of this piece is based partly on the singing of the angels from the Nativity. The melody is constantly present, and the opening theme is in fact an embellished version of the first line. Moreover, Bach weaves the whole melody into the piece line by line, in long notes, and at a certain point even repeatedly in a short canon between the bass part and one of the upper parts.

The hymn held special significance for Lutherans and was sung every Sunday. The words and the melody are based on an older hymn: the Gloria – one of the regular hymns in the Latin Mass. Luther himself said that the words of the Gloria were not written by human hand, “because they did not originate on earth, but were brought down from heaven”. After all, according to Luke the Evangelist, they are the words sung by the angels after the birth of Jesus: “Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. At the end of his compositions, Bach often used a shortened version of these words, ending his score with the letters “SDG”; an abbreviation of the Latin Soli Deo Gloria.

In Leipzig, between 1731 and 1741, Bach published four parts of Clavier-Übung, a title used previously by Johann Kuhnau, his predecessor as cantor at the Thomasschule, for similar collections of works for organ and harpsichord. The compositions are very varied in nature and, although the title suggests otherwise, were difficult to play. Bach addresses all the styles, genres and techniques for harpsichord and organ that were prevalent at the time, but then in the superior form to which only he had the patent. Clavier-Übung I (1731) contains the six partitas, BWV 825-830; Clavier-Übung II (1735) the Concerto nach italienischen Gusto, BWV 971 and the Ouverture nach französischer Art, BWV 831; and Clavier-Übung IV (1741) the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. The largest part, Clavier-Übung III (1739), is the only one devoted to organ, containing mostly chorale arrangements, or organ preludes based on Lutheran hymns. Bach made two versions of each chorale: one for great organ and one for a smaller type of organ.

Most of the chorales refer to the six parts of the catechism. It is unclear whether Bach also played them during the services, or whether he developed his musical ideas in them for his own use, with no intention of performing them in public.


Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

organ work (chorale arrangement)

Clavier-Übung III

ca. 1739


Special notes
There is a variation on this chorale arrangement, BWV 676a. This arrangement was probably not made by Bach himself.

Cast & Crew

release date 11 December 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
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts




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