All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Partite diverse sopra ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’

BWV 768 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Martin's Church, Groningen

One chorale, eleven variations. Leo van Doeselaar guides us through the 'Golberg variations' for organ.

The old-fashioned Art of Variation in all its Glory

In his chorale partitas, Bach rivalled Böhm, Reincken and Buxtehude

In all his chorale arrangements, Bach took inspiration for the style and atmosphere from the words of the hymn on which his composition was based. But the main role in his chorale partitas seems to be given to pure pleasure in playing and inventiveness. For his variations on ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’, he literally pulls out all the stops. For over twenty minutes, he explores the harmonic, rhythmic and stylistic possibilities of the melody forming the base of the piece. The art of variation was already considered old-fashioned in Bach’s day. But Georg Böhm, the organ virtuoso with whom the fifteen-year-old Bach became acquainted during his schooldays in Lüneburg, was a master of variation. Through Böhm, Bach also came into contact with Reincken, and through him with Buxtehude, who were both composers with a flair for the art of variation. There was much that Bach could learn from these masters, but the challenge of variation must have held particular appeal for the young composer. It was not just conceiving of the most varied and sophisticated series possible, but also the virtuoso interpretation of that series that provided the opportunity of rivalling his idols.

Chorale partitas, BWV 766-770
The chorale partita is a special form of chorale arrangement, as the chorale (or hymn) serves as the starting point for a series of variations. The art of variation was at its peak in the seventeenth century. Usually, a folk song was taken as the starting point for a series of variations that increased in difficulty and speed. The genre was not restricted to keyboard instruments. The blind Dutch recorder and carillon player Jacob van Eyck was also a master in the art, for example. The five compositions by Bach bearing the name of chorale partita do not come from a single source, nor are they dated, but it is supposed that they originated in his teens and may have been revised later on.


Partite diverse sopra ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’

organ work (chorale partita)


Weimar, Leipzig

Cast & Crew

release date 18 July 2014
recording date 8 October 2013
Location St. Martin's Church, Groningen
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
organ Arp Schnitger, 1692
Producer Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTORS Jan Van den Bossche, Frank van der Weij
DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY Jorrit Garretsen, Sal Kroonenberg
FILM EDITOR Dylan Glyn Jones
Colorist Jef Grosfeld
PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Marco Meijdam, Zoë de Wilde
interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts




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