Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag

Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag

BWV 629 performed by Bart Jacobs
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

New life

The old is still heard in the new

Easter is the celebration of new life. So in this arrangement of Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag, a well-known Easter hymn by Nikolaus Herman, Bach breathes new life into the old. The melody of Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag is based on the Gregorian chant Ad monumentum venimus gementes (sorrowfully, we approach the tomb). This is derived from the visitatio sepulchri in the Easter liturgy; the staged and sung Easter drama in which the three Marys find the empty sepulchre. All Bach has to do then is perform a couple of small harmonic tricks in order to use the chorale as a canon. From Gregorian chant to chorale to canonic organ arrangement: time and again the old material is used to create something new.

Something similar often took place with organs. At the time Bach was working on the Orgelbüchlein in Weimar, the  St Bavo's Church in Haarlem still housed the old organ built in the fifteenth century and completely renovated in the 1630’s. When Christian Müller was commissioned in 1735 to build a new organ, he initially planned to reuse the registers and pipes from the old organ, “since they will be repaired to make them as good as new”. Just as in Herman’s chorale and Bach’s arrangement, the old would then still have been heard in the new. However, renovation can be even more radical. Later on, it was decided to use only new pipes, so Müller could “melt down the old pipes to serve the purpose”.

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.

This recording was made on the famous Müller organ in the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, in Haarlem. It is a very special instrument from 1738. Both Georg Friedrich Händel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart travelled to Haarlem to play this organ! Händel was particularly delighted by the unusual Vox Humana register. The organ has over 5000 pipes, divided over 64 registers, with three manuals and a pedal.

Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag
organ works

Extra videos

Organist Bart Jacobs

“Don't be mistaken; the short chorales in the Orgelbüchlein are often the hardest”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    6 April 2018
  • Recording date
    22 September 2016
  • Location
    St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
  • Organist
    Bart Jacobs
  • Organ
    Christian Müller, 1738
  • 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
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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