BWV 700

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her

BWV 700 performed by Elske te Lindert
Bovenkerk, Kampen

Elske explains why Bach wrote 'Organo Pleno' in the score. What does it mean?

Pretend fugue

The angel descends to earth in a wonderful grand opening.

For this piece, Bach arranged a cheerful Christmas chorale, with words and music written by Luther himself. The first two lines of the chorale paraphrase the words of the angel who brings the glad tidings to the shepherds: “I descend from heaven on high; I bring you wonderful new tidings”. It has been suggested that in Luther’s day this chorale was sung at the traditional Christmas play of the biblical nativity, where sometimes an angel came down on a rope. Bach does something similar at the beginning of this chorale arrangement. In the opening bars, it seems like he will use the chorale in a perfect fugue. The four parts come in one after another, from high to low, with the first line of the chorale melody. This is followed by a few pretend entrances, giving the impression that there are more than four parts, and the pedal eventually joins in after twenty bars. But then, as if the young Bach (it is an early work) had underestimated this ambitious intention, the piece continues with freer imitations and figurations of the chorale melody.

Various German composers from previous generations had already composed organ arrangements of this popular chorale. And Bach himself took every opportunity. A couple of years before his death, almost as if to show that of course he could handle that strict counterpoint, Bach was to write a whole series of ‘canonic variations’ based on Vom Himmel hoch (BWV 769).

Kirnbergerschen Sammlung, BWV 690-713

Bach cherished a great many of his compositions, ensuring that they were collected or recycled, and – if at all possible – published. But there are also pieces that missed the boat, such as the twenty-four early organ compositions now known as the Kirnbergerschen Sammlung. We owe the survival of these works to Bach’s pupil Johann Kirnberger, who collected twenty-four organ compositions, among other pieces, following the death of his master. The most striking thing about this collection is its lack of cohesion. The only similarity between the works is that they probably all date from the period before 1710.


Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her

organ work (chorale arrangement)

Kirnbergerschen Sammlung

before 1710

Mühlhausen or Weimar

Cast & Crew

release date 9 December 2016
recording date 2 October 2015
LOCATION Bovenkerk, Kampen
ORGANIST Elske te Lindert
Organ Albertus Antoni Hinsz, 1742
DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
Music recording, edit and mix Guido Tichelman
CAMERA Maarten van Rossem, Gijs Besseling
Film editor and interview Gijs Besseling
Producer Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts




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