Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist

Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist

BWV 667 performed by Reitze Smits
Jacobikerk, Uithuizen

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Two-part work for the Holy Ghost

Bach brilliantly expands on his own work

‘Come, God the Creator, Holy Ghost, visit the hearts of your mankind’, is the opening to Luther’s interpretation of the ninth-century hymn Veni creator spiritus. A true classic for Whitsuntide, which turns up in various places in Bach’s oeuvre, including the Orgelbüchlein (1713-16), which provided beginner church musicians with inspiration for the whole liturgical year. Years later, when Bach was preparing a new set of chorale preludes, called the Leipziger Choräle, he harked back to that early version of Komm, Gott (BWV 631). Even more strikingly, this chorale arrangement revives the earlier work in its entirety, and then proceeds to take it in a new direction, almost like a variation.

The principle is simple enough: the upper part plays the chorale (almost literally the old Gregorian melody), two middle parts fill in with plenty of runs and figures with leaps, and the foundation is provided by an independent bass. In the first movement, this latter voice keeps entering on the third beat, giving a curious effect whereby it could be heard as the third part of the Trinity: the Holy Ghost. From the closing note of the original chorale prelude, however, Bach begins to weave an inventive texture. One upper part becomes two and the atmosphere becomes fiery. Following a pedal point, the chorale returns, now in the bass, while the other parts jubilantly seek out new harmonies. Right before the ending, very attentive listeners will briefly hear the B-A-C-H motif (the notes B-flat, A, C and B in German ‘spelling’) in the alto; a logical consequence of the minor/major feeling surrounding the second chorale appearance.

BWV 667 even became a classic in its own right. Busoni, for example, arranged the piece for keyboard, while Schönberg used a complete orchestra, including percussion, which presents the ‘limping’ bass of the opening with exceptional clarity.

18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle, BWV 651-668
In the last ten years of his life, Bach gathered together and completed a series of chorale arrangements, presumably planning to have them published, just like the third part of the Clavier-Übung in 1739. It concerns a selection of his compositions from much earlier years, when he was working as an organist in Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. The collection became known as the 18 Choräle or Leipziger Choräle. Incidentally, 18 Choräle is a misleading title, as the set originally comprised 17 pieces. The eighteenth, Vor deinen Thron tret ich (BWV 668), was added to Bach’s manuscript later on.

Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist
organ works
18 Choräle (organ)
Special notes
Part of a manuscript containing 17 chorale arrangements, BWV 651-667, which Bach collected in the 1740s, and of which the earliest versions sometimes originated in his Weimar period.

Extra videos

Organists on the Schnitger organ

“Schnitger is the Stradivarius of organ building.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    28 May 2020
  • Recording date
    18 July 2019
  • Location
    Jacobikerk, Uithuizen
  • Organist
    Reitze Smits
  • Organ
    Arp Schnitger, ca. 1700
  • Director and editor
    Robin van Erven Dorens
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Onno van der Wal
  • Lights
    Gregoor van de Kamp
  • Data handling
    Stefan Ebels
  • Interview
    Robin van Erven Dorens, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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