Christus der ist mein Leben

Christus der ist mein Leben

BWV 282 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
Grote Kerk, Naarden

Behind the music


Extremely expressive

The words make the simple chorale form burst at the seams

Chorale texts and melodies are an essential part of Bach’s work. Besides being a source for countless organ compositions, hymns from Bach’s day – both well-known and lesser known – also formed the basis for much of his vocal music. At one end of the spectrum are the large-scale opening choruses of Bach’s cantatas. In them, the chorale melody forms the basis for a complex musical structure, in which the original hymn is arranged, decorated, paraphrased, unravelled and combined with itself and with other motifs.
At the other extreme, there are the so-called chorale harmonisations, in which Bach provides chords to a song for four-part ensemble. These versions nearly always follow a fixed pattern: the melody in the upper voice, with the other voices below in more or less the same rhythm. Although a simple form, the most inventive and expressive ideas are often found here, in the harmonies. It is only very occasionally that Bach deviates from this pattern.

So the effect is even greater when he does suddenly deviate, which is precisely what makes this version of Christus der ist mein Leben so special. It starts off like a ‘normal’ chorale, but on reaching the word ‘sterben’, the voices suddenly become individual again in a series of expressive chords. It seems as if Bach’s interpretation of the words makes the simple chorale form burst at the seams. This creates an extremely expressive effect.
In the opening chorus of a cantata, with a choir and orchestra, precisely the same effect with the same notes would be considerably less remarkable, as that is just where you would expect to find such an expressive moment. Here, we can even check this directly, as BWV 282 is a miniature version of the opening chorus of the cantata BWV 95. Both works have practically the same notes, but the effect is different in each.

Christus der ist mein Leben

Extra videos

Vocal texts


Christus der ist mein Leben,
Sterben ist mein Gewinn;
Dem tu ich mich ergeben,
Mit Freud fahr ich dahin.

Alsdann fein sanft und stille,
Herr, lass mich schlafen ein
Nach deinem Rath und Willen
Wenn kommt mein Stündelein.


My life, O Christ, is in you,
In death I am released;
I give myself unto you,
I pass away in peace.

And so in peace and quiet
Lord, may I find my home,
On your wise will reliant
When my last hour has come.

translation © Ruth van Baak Griffioen, 2020



  • Release date
    10 December 2020
  • Recording date
    7 March 2020
  • Location
    Grote Kerk, Naarden
  • Soprano
    Marta Paklar
  • Alto
    Sofia Gvirts
  • Tenor
    João Moreira
  • Bass
    Matthew Baker
  • Theorbo
    Mike Fentross
  • Director
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Jesper Blok
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot, Patrick Galvin
  • Set technique
    Justin Mutsaers
  • Projectmanager team
    Ron Vermeulen
  • Video editing
    Bas Wielenga
  • Assistent music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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