Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr

BWV 675 performed by Reitze Smits
St Jacob's Church, Leeuwarden

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Three times three

A new trilogy is opened by the eudokia, or joy of God, and faith

In Clavier-Übung III, as in the Leipziger Choräle, Bach gathered together older music, supplemented by new works. He used these new compositions to fill in the preconceived structure. In both collections, he wrote a trilogy to the chorale Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr. In view of the words, which are a retranslation of the Latin Gloria, that is an obvious choice. The original hymn still even has a hint of a Gregorian melody about it. As in the Leipziger set, Bach divides the four verses of the chorale over the three works: BWV 675 and 676 are each given one verse and thus one theme, while BWV 677 gets two.

The first verse is a sort of introduction. Verses two to four are about the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Bach opens his trilogy with a modest trio without pedal. The melody is in the alto part. The references to the Trinity are conspicuous; from the time signature in three to the modern-galant combination of triplets against ‘straight’ notes – three to two. Less conspicuous is the way Bach bases his free parts on the fifth line of the chorale, ‘Ein Wohlgefall'n Gott an uns hat’, which was most probably the reason for the light-hearted atmosphere. And for those wishing to speculate further: the first three notes of this chorale arrangement, F-G-A, are also the consecutive keys of the three arrangements of this chorale in Clavier-Übung III. Does coincidence ever play a role in Bach’s work?

In Leipzig, between 1731 and 1741, Bach published four parts of Clavier-Übung, a title used previously by Johann Kuhnau, his predecessor as cantor at the Thomasschule, for similar collections of works for organ and harpsichord. The compositions are very varied in nature and, although the title suggests otherwise, were difficult to play. Bach addresses all the styles, genres and techniques for harpsichord and organ that were prevalent at the time, but then in the superior form to which only he had the patent.

Clavier-Übung I (1731) contains the six partitas, BWV 825-830; Clavier-Übung II (1735) the Concerto nach italienischen Gusto, BWV 971 and the Ouverture nach französischer Art, BWV 831; and Clavier-Übung IV (1741) the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. The largest part, Clavier-Übung III (1739), is the only one devoted to organ, containing mostly chorale arrangements, or organ preludes based on Lutheran hymns. Bach made two versions of each chorale: one for great organ and one for a smaller type of organ. Most of the chorales refer to the six parts of the catechism. It is unclear whether Bach also played them during the services, or whether he developed his musical ideas in them for his own use, with no intention of performing them in public.

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr
organ works
Clavier-Übung III

Extra videos

Organist Reitze Smits

“Reitze Smits on the structure of this chorale arrangement.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    5 June 2015
  • Recording date
    15 September 2014
  • Location
    St Jacob's Church, Leeuwarden
  • Organist
    Reitze Smits
  • Organ registration
    Mayuko Banno
  • Organ
    Christian Müller, 1727
  • Producer
    Frank van der Weij
  • Film director
    Jan Van den Bossche
  • Directors of photography
    Diderik Evers, Ruben van den Broeke
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Film editor
    Dylan Glyn Jones
  • Colorist
    Jef Grosfeld
  • Production assistant
    Hanna Schreuders
  • Acknowledgements
    Rob Tigchelaar