Wir Christenleut

Wir Christenleut

BWV 612 performed by Theo Jellema
Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Perpetuum mobile

Jesus' descent to earth is clearly audible

The first note you hear in this piece is the first note of the hymn Wir Christenleut. That is probably just as well, otherwise we might find the chorale melody being swamped by the cheerfully descending runs. They are prominently present, like a sort of perpetuum mobile. But Bach knew what he was doing. Moreover, in his day everyone knew the melody of this popular Christmas hymn like the back of their hand. The words are about Christ, who redeemed mankind by coming down to earth as a man. So here, the downward runs in the middle parts could symbolise the descent of God’s son to earth, while the chorale melody resounds proudly above the earth in the upper part. The festive joy is heightened by the quavers in the pedal.

Orgelbüchlein, BWV 599-644
During his time as court organist at Weimar (1708-1714), Bach already started compiling his first collection of chorale arrangements and chorale preludes (compositions based on Lutheran hymns). They were intended to be used in church services, and the preludes were an introduction to congregational singing. According to the list of contents in Bach’s manuscript, it was supposed to have been a collection of 164 compositions, but in the end it did not exceed 46 (BWV 599-644). The order, combined with the limited length of the pieces, indicates that Bach was planning to compile a complete cycle of chorale arrangements. Later, in his period at Köthen, he gave the collection a title page, which reads: ‘Orgel-Büchlein, Worinne einem anfahenden Organisten Anleitung gegeben wird, auff allerhand Arth einen Choral durchzuführen…’ (‘Little organ book, in which a beginner organist is taught to arrange a chorale in all sorts of ways...’). So at the time, he intended the collection just as a teaching manual, maybe to present on his application in 1722 for the post of cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, which was an important teaching position. The pupils must have had a hard time of it, as the preludes contain the complete range of baroque keyboard techniques in a nutshell.

Wir Christenleut
organ works
ca. 1708-1717
Special notes
Included in a manuscript with 45 other chorale preludes. It was only in 1722, in Köthen, that the manuscript was given a title page stating Orgelbüchlein.

Extra videos

Organist Theo Jellema

“Bach wrote a bass which is uncoordinated at first sight. This could be an expression of great joy.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    13 January 2017
  • Recording date
    24 August 2015
  • Location
    Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof
  • Organist
    Theo Jellema
  • Organ
    Christoph Treutmann, 1731
  • Director and editor
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Camera
    Maarten van Rossem, Onno van Ameijde
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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