BWV 726

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend

BWV 726 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"Bach uses harmonies that Max Reger, several centuries later, would not have been ashamed of."

Ultrashort and exotic

Bach seems to be deliberately provoking the church council.

This remarkable chorale arrangement is over in less than a minute. The melody comes in immediately and is played all the way through to the end, which shows that this piece was intended simply to accompany the congregation’s singing. Yet within this ultrashort space of time, the four melody lines also alternate with interludes of quasi-improvised strings of notes. As Leo van Doeselaar says in the interview, it is unclear what their function is. In any case, they are no help to the congregation in finding the next note to come in on. And the harmonisations of the chorale fragments themselves are curious too. The interim final chords are jarred by the strangest of dissonants, which lends an exotic touch to the piece.

It is questionable whether the congregation were actually distracted by these sorts of tricks in the accompaniment when singing such a simple tune, as claimed by the church council of Arnstadt in 1706. Yet the council must have had precisely this sort of chorale prelude in mind when they complained of the many strange notes with which Bach peppered his music. And the complaint that their young organist’s preludes were far too short (following their earlier accusation that his preludes lasted far too long) could well be applied to this composition.

We know that Bach sometimes got into trouble in Arnstadt for his inappropriate behaviour. Examples are a fight with a bassoon player, illicit trips to the wine cellar and visits from strange ladies during working hours. But the fact that he could probably also revel in the church council’s struggles to find the right way of formulating their musical dissatisfaction emphasises the darker side of his nature still further. When the church council thought they discerned ‘viele wunderliche variationes’ and even a ‘tonum peregrinum’ in his chorales (we no longer know for certain what they meant by this), Bach’s opinion of his employers must have reached an all-time low. When the angry young man moved to Mühlhausen a year later, it must have been a blessing on both sides.


BWV
726

Title
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend

genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

Year
ca. 1706-1707

City
Arnstadt?

Cast & Crew

Release Date 8 July 2016
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
MUSIC PRODUCTION, EDITING AND MIX Holger Schlegel
editor Jasper Verkaart
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Hanna Schreuders
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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