Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir

Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir

BWV 687 performed by Reitze Smits
St Jacob's Church, Leeuwarden

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Oppressive and charming

In this chorale arrangement, Bach sides with insignificant mankind

There is a world of difference between the grandeur of Bach’s six-part arrangement of this chorale (BWV 686) and the humility of this small-scale version. The chorale ‘Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir’ (Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord) is one of the psalms from the Office for the Dead. The words of the psalm have often been set to the most beautiful music. In this arrangement of the chorale, it seems as if Bach is siding with vulnerable mankind, creeping closer, as it were, to God’s throne, daring only to hope and expecting nothing. The only thing to hold onto is the melody line, which runs from start to finish in long note values. It results in a composition that is equally oppressive and charming. Organist Reitze Smits associates the calm and well-balanced atmosphere with God’s mercy after confession.

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.

Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir
organ works
Clavier-Übung III

Extra videos

Organist Reitze Smits

“Calm and well-balanced, as if to represent the 'mercy' of God after confession. This is how organist Reitze Smits describes this chorale arrangement.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    28 August 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
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Acknowledgements
    Rob Tigchelaar

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