BWV 957

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Fugue in G major / Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt

BWV 957 performed by Bart Jacobs
St-Bavokerk, Haarlem

Bart Jacobs loves to play this piece. Why?

A mystery solved

After 250 years, a short fugue for harpsichord shows its true colours.

This is not the only work by Bach without a clear context. There are dozens of them, certainly within the organ repertoire. However, few pieces underwent such a dramatic twist as this one. With no handwritten source by Bach, Machs mit mir Gott, nach deiner Güt was regarded for many years as a fugue. It was even undecided whether it was a fugue for harpsichord or organ. That is until the discovery in New York, in 1985, of the Neumeister Sammlung, which contained an extra long version of BWV 957 among all sorts of other hitherto unknown works by Bach (and other composers).

Even more exciting is that in this source the fugue is followed seamlessly by a setting of the chorale Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt. The experts soon set to puzzling it out and what do you know – the chorale melody is present throughout the work, although well concealed in the decorative fugue theme. Although eyes are more useful than ears in this case, listen carefully to each ‘heavy’ beat of the bar. This really is a chorale arrangement. It is a unique piece – or did Bach write more fugues using this technique?

In the words of the hymn arranged by Bach, Johann Schein (one of Bach’s predecessors in Leipzig) was thinking about the end of life. To us, this may seem a melancholy theme, but for Baroque congregations death was a doorway to heaven, which you could confidently open with God at your side. Cheerful music was therefore quite suitable, certainly for a closing line like ‘Herr, in deine Händ’, ist alles gut, wenn gut das End’.


BWV
957

Title
Fugue in G major / Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt

Genre
organ work (chorale arrangement)

Year
before 1720

Cast & Crew

Release date 4 August 2017
Recording date 22 September 2016
Location St-Bavokerk, Haarlem
Organist Bart Jacobs
Organ Müllerorgel
Director Bas Wielenga
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
Lights Gregoor van de Kamp
Producer Jessie Verbrugh
Interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

Print

You might also like these works