BWV 678

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot

BWV 678 performed by Reitze Smits
St Jacob's Church, Leeuwarden

"Long notes, insistently played and a canon in the octave. The octave stands for God. You can't get around it."

Canon becomes law

Ten commandments, five parts and two canons in pastoral peace

At the heart of Bach’s Clavier-Übung III are some clever chorale arrangements linked to the Lutheran Mass and the catechism. In this second group, the six parts of the Lutheran catechism – the principles of the religion – are each presented in a version with pedal and a version without. It begins with Luther’s little known ‘ten commandment chorale’ in (how else?) ten verses, plus a conclusion and the following introduction: ‘Dies sind die heil'gen zehn gebot' / die uns gab unser Herre Gott / durch Mosen, seinen diener treu, / hoch auf dem berge Sinai. / Kyrieleis.’ It is a melody in five phrases, which Bach doubles to ten in a simple canon.

Coincidence? Of course not! The Greek word κανών means ‘law’, so for that reason alone a composer can hardly avoid this technique in the case of this text. It is remarkable that the piece as a whole exudes a warm, pastoral atmosphere, rather than a purely technical one. The doubled chorale melody meanders smoothly between a melodically rich interwoven canon in the upper parts, notwithstanding a few harmonically exciting moments. This makes these ten commandments a peaceful counterpart to their more rousing pendant without pedal; the fughetta BWV 679.

Clavier-Übung
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 italienischem 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.


BWV
678

Title
ies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

Series
Clavier-Übung III

year
1739

city
Leipzig

Cast & Crew

release date 27 February 2015
recording date 16 September 2014
LOCATION St Jacob's Church, Leeuwarden
ORGAN Christian Müller, 1727
ORGANIST Reitze Smits
ORGAN REGISTRATION Mayuko Banno
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Diderik Evers, Ruben van den Broeke
MUSIC PRODUCTION, EDITING AND MIX Holger Schlegel
FILM EDITOR Dylan Glyn Jones
COLORIST Jef Grosfeld
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Hanna Schreuders
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Rob Tigchelaar

Vocal Texts

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