BWV 709

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend

BWV 709 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

Leo van Doeselaar explains why this chorale prelude may be called archaic.

A solemn quest

In rather archaic fashion, Bach invokes Christ’s help in finding the path to truth.

This arrangement of the chorale ‘Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu und wend’ is moving in its simplicity. The richly embellished melody in the soprano advances slowly, placing a solemn seal on the piece. The three lower parts make an extremely modest contribution, using snatches of the original chorale melody. 
Bach made several arrangements of this chorale, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the text. Whereas BWV 655, for example, reflects the jubilation of the host of angels in the third verse, it appears that when composing this arrangement Bach had the first verse in mind, which invokes the help of Christ in finding the path to truth. The sustained opening notes of each phrase may indicate that this is the first arrangement Bach made of this chorale. In any case, the piece dates from his younger years, from the early Weimar period, or maybe even from when he was working in Mühlhausen. Later on, Bach may not have been too pleased with the rather archaic atmosphere that is evoked. It is in any case not due to Bach himself that the piece has survived.

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.


Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend

organ work (chorale arrangement)

Kirnbergerschen Sammlung

before 1710

Mühlhausen of Weimar

Special notes
Bach made more arrangements of this chorale later on: BWV 632, 655, 726 and 749.

Cast & Crew

Release date 23 October 2015
date 21 October 2014
LOCATION St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
Organ Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Reconstruction: Flentrop 2013.
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg, Ruben van den Broeke
CAMERA ASSISTANTS Andreas Grotevent, Lucas Lütz
FILM EDITOR Jasper Verkaart
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts




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