BWV 740

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Wir glauben all an einen Gott, Vater

BWV 740 performed by Theo Jellema
Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof

"The double pedal Bach requires is of course a challenge for the organist. Playing one part with two feet can be hard enough and playing two parts is more difficult still."

Bordering on sluggish

Whoever the composer is, this piece fits the words well.

There are quite a few of Bach’s works for which there is no surviving score written by the composer himself. In that case, circumstantial evidence is used to determine whether he really was the composer. Opinions are divided over this piece.

The fact is that there are four related versions of this organ work, but all of them appear only in copies from the nineteenth century. In any case, three of them are attributed to Bach’s pupil, Johann Ludwig Krebs. The Bachgesellschaft has deemed the fourth version (a five-part piece with two pedal parts and the melody in the upper part) a work by Bach, publishing it as BWV 740. The other three are considered to be derived from it during Krebs’ time as a pupil, between 1726 and 1735.

It is interesting that a Wir glauben all an einen Gott is mentioned in the Orgelbüchlein, which originated in the years 1713-1716, although unfortunately the music is missing. It is unclear whether Bach wanted to add a possible arrangement of the chorale by Clausnitzer, entitled Wir glauben all an einen Gott, Vater’, or one of Luther’s ‘Wir glauben all an einen Gott’ (i.e. without ‘Vater’). Luther’s text is longer than that of Clausnitzer, and the melody is different as well. Bach used Luther’s chorale in the third movement of his Clavier-Übung from 1739 (BWV 680).

If we compare that organ arrangement with BWV 740, we see a world of difference. This is logical, as the words of these two German creeds differ as well. BWV 680 rejoices and exults about the caring and protective God of Luther’s text, whereas Clausnitzer’s words are considerably more sparing in their characterisation. Here, God’s revered virtues are those of a ruler who ordains at will.

The music of BWV 740 fits this perfectly. Solemn and bordering on sluggish, the whole arrangement takes place in the same mood; obediently plodding along in four-four time. The professional literature is critical of the inconsistencies in the pedal parts and the weak harmonies. So could this really be a work by Bach? If so, then he clearly found little inspiration in giving voice to this distant God.


Wir glauben all an einen Gott, Vater

organ work (chorale arrangement)

ca. 1708-1717


Special notes
The arrangement is one of the group of a few dozen scattered organ chorales by Bach that cannot be traced back to a creation date or occasion. This chorale arrangement has also survived as a composition by Johann Ludwig Krebs.

Cast & Crew

release date 26 February 2016
recording date 26 August 2015
LOCATION Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof
ORGANIST Theo Jellema
organ Christoph Treutmann, 1731
FILM DIRECTOR and editor Onno van Ameijde
Camera Maarten van Rossem, Onno van Ameijde
Producer Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts




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