Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten
BWV 642 performed by Dorien Schouten
Behind the music
Bach uses a short rhythmic motif to underline the mood of the chorale text.
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten comes towards the end of the Orgelbüchlein. It is one of a small group of chorales that do not have a precise place in the ecclesiastical year. They were probably included because they were popular or often used in Weimar, where Bach composed the Orgelbüchlein.
The words and the melody of Wer nur den lieben Gott are by Georg Neumark (1621-1681), librarian, secretary and court poet in Weimar. In the year of his death, he wrote about the origins of the hymn. Following misfortune and great poverty during a stay in Hamburg in the winter of 1641-42, he suddenly found a job, “which sudden fortune that appeared to have fallen from heaven made me extremely happy, and directly on the first day – in honour of my beloved God – I wrote the widely known hymn Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten”. Another source adds that he had had to pawn his viola da gamba, which he played superbly, and was very happy to get back again.
The words of the hymn thus express optimism and trust, sentiments that are not so easily translated into music. Yet Bach appears to have been thinking along those lines. Below the chorale melody, there is a continual lively anapest (two short notes and one long), with no complicated counterpoint, but in harmonious parallel thirds, resulting in a brisk gait. However, you can also give a more martial interpretation of this movement, as organist Dorien Schouten does. She talks about it in her interview.
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.
- Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten
- organ works
- ca. 1708-1717
- Release date
- 22 July 2016
- Recording date
- 1 October 2015
- Bovenkerk, Kampen
- Dorien Schouten
- Reil choir organ
- Film directors
- Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
- Maarten van Rossem, Gijs Besseling
- Music production, editing and mix
- Guido Tichelman
- Film editor and interview
- Gijs Besseling
- Jessie Verbrugh
Help us to complete All of Bach
There are still many recordings to be made before the whole of Bach’s oeuvre is online. And we can’t complete the task without the financial support of our patrons. Please help us to complete the musical heritage of Bach, by supporting us with a donation!