Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf

Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf

BWV 617 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Martin's Church, Groningen

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Battle-weary to the next world

An ingenious little three-voice work accompanies Simeon's soul to eternal rest

Though this is a tiny piece of organ music, its expressive power is undiminished. In this chorale arrangement, Bach aptly illustrated the text from the 1713 Geistreiches Gesangbuch from Weimar: ‘I have suffered and fought, but now my life is at an end and I can die in peace’. These are the words of the aged Simeon, who has seen his Saviour, as God had promised him. The legato yet persistent melody is played on the upper keyboard, while the left hand represents the restless feet anxious to enter the next world. Meanwhile, the pedal knocks steadily at the gates of heaven, in the firm conviction that the reward for earthly labours is close at hand. 

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.

Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf
organ works
ca. 1708-1717

Extra videos

Organist Leo van Doeselaar

“When you find a balance, it sounds unequalled - Leo van Doeselaar on the importance of proper registration.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    30 May 2014
  • Recording date
    8 October 2013
  • Location
    St. Martin's Church, Groningen
  • Organist
    Leo van Doeselaar
  • Organ registration
    Tim Knigge
  • 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
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Film editor
    Dylan Glyn Jones
  • Colorist
    Jef Grosfeld
  • Production assistants
    Marco Meijdam, Zoë de Wilde
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Acknowledgements
    Jan Haak

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