Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam

Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam

BWV 684 performed by Reitze Smits
Lutheran church, The Hague

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Purification by water

After baptism comes a new life, and that is a reason for joy.

This chorale arrangement is brimming with cheerfulness. Luther’s hymn ‘Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam’ is one with a very special promise: that of a new life. Christ was baptised in the Jordan by St John, and he baptises us to cleanse us of our sins. But the baptismal water is no ordinary water, as it is coloured with the blood of Christ. Through the water of death, the person baptised is reborn in Christ. While the chorale melody sounds in long notes in the pedal, the river water ripples gaily in fast notes over two keyboards, without being turned anywhere along the banks. In the four-voiced arrangement, there are many question and answer games between the three highest parts, which emphasise once again the carefree unity of those being purified.

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.

Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam
organ works
Clavier-Übung III

Extra videos

Organist Reitze Smits

“Reitze Smits talks about one of Bach's most favourite registers.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    25 July 2014
  • Recording date
    28 November 2013
  • Location
    Lutheran Church, The Hague
  • Organist
    Reitze Smits
  • Organ registration
    Arjan de Vos
  • Organ
    Johann Heinrich Hartmann Bätz, 1762
  • Producer
    Frank van der Weij
  • Film directors
    Jan Van den Bossche
  • Directors of photography
    Jorrit Garretsen, Sal Kroonenberg
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Film editor
    Dylan Glyn Jones
  • Colorist
    Martijn de Haas
  • Production assistants
    Imke Deters, Zoë de Wilde

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