Fantasia super: Christ lag in Todesbanden

Fantasia super: Christ lag in Todesbanden

BWV 695 performed by Dorien Schouten
Bovenkerk, Kampen

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Subdued joy

The chorale melody surfaces where you least expect it

This organ version of the Easter hymn Christ lag in Todesbanden shows subdued joy. The piece begins as a two-part invention; a duet of imitation between the soprano and the bass. The two voices start off with a decorated form of the original chorale melody. So right from the beginning, you wonder what will follow. A third and fourth voice in imitation of the first two? The chorale melody in long notes with no decoration? And if so, then where? Many listeners – both in Bach’s day and today – would expect the chorale to appear soon in long notes in the pedal.

But Bach surprises us with something else. He slips the chorale melody almost unnoticed in between the high and low parts as a third voice, just like a singing voice entering after an instrumental introduction. Little arrangement would be needed to turn this organ version into an aria (as in the Schübler-Choräle, BWV 645-650, in which the procedure was reversed, using arias from a number of church cantatas). You can sing along with chorale melody with virtually no problem at all.

It is, however, quite natural to expect the original melody in the pedal. And there is even a version of this piece, BWV 695a, in which the chorale melody does appear in the pedal. But it is not certain whether that version is also by Bach himself. It is more important to note that two versions of the piece were already circulating in Bach’s day, probably because it was more usual for a chorale melody to be in the upper or lower part.

Kirnbergerschen Sammlung, BWV 690-713
Bach cherished a great many of his compositions, ensuring that they were collected or recycled, and – if at all possible – published. But there are also pieces that missed the boat, such as the twenty-four early organ compositions now known as the Kirnbergerschen Sammlung. We owe the survival of these works to Bach’s pupil Johann Kirnberger, who collected twenty-four organ compositions, among other pieces, following the death of his master. The most striking thing about this collection is its lack of cohesion. The only similarity between the works is that they probably all date from the period before 1710.

Fantasia super: Christ lag in Todesbanden
organ works
Kirnbergerschen Sammlung (organ)
before 1710
Mühlhausen or Weimar
Special notes
It is sometimes questioned whether this work was written by Bach.

Extra videos

Organist Dorien Schouten

“Bach finishes with a four-part setting of the chorale melody: very stately, like the way a choir would sing it.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    12 May 2017
  • Recording date
    1 October 2015
  • Location
    Bovenkerk, Kampen
  • Organist
    Dorien Schouten
  • Organ
    Reil choir organ
  • Director
    Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
  • Camera
    Maarten van Rossem, Gijs Besseling
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Film editor and interview
    Gijs Besseling
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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