Ach, Gott und Herr

Ach, Gott und Herr

BWV 714 performed by Bart Jacobs
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Mystical Italian

Who could Bach have picked this up from?

Bach regularly used styles and forms from Italian music throughout his oeuvre. Yet the first movement of BWV 714 is special, as practically nowhere else does Bach write such purely Italianate organ music. As organist Bart Jacobs remarks: this is definitely the Italian style of durezze e legature, which literally means ‘harshness and suspensions’. Here, Bach writes long, sustained notes, resolving dissonants and making room for new dissonants in a chain that is only truly resolved at the end. In Italy, this sort of mystical music often accompanied the elevation: the displaying of the host during Mass.

It is rather similar to Frescobaldi, but bears an even stronger resemblance to the improvisations of Italian church organists. You can still hear organists improvising in this style today in Italy. So who could Bach have picked this up from? Maybe indirectly from the Italian organist and composer Vincenzo Albrici. Albrici worked in Dresden and even at St Thomas Church in Leipzig for a year in 1681, after which he left for Prague. Albrici’s pupil Johann Kuhnau might possibly have improvised in this Italian style as well. One Italian organist that Bach may have heard was Giovanni Alberto Ristori, who arrived in Dresden in 1715. Along with Zelenka and Heinichen, he was responsible for the church music at the Saxon court. He was certainly an excellent organist, as he received a temporary appointment as chamber organist in 1733.

For the second movement of this chorale arrangement, Bach chooses a strict canon. It is as though he alarmed himself by his excursion into Italianate mysticism and wanted to contrast it with a strictly Protestant variation. 

This recording was made on the famous Müller organ in the Great or St. Bavo Church, in Haarlem. It is a very special instrument from 1738. Both Georg Friedrich Händel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart travelled to Haarlem to play this organ! Händel was particularly delighted by the unusual Vox Humana register. The organ has over 5000 pipes, divided over 64 registers, with three manuals and a pedal.

Ach, Gott und Herr / Ach, Gott und Herr per canonem
organ works

Extra videos

Organist Bart Jacobs

“Bach is putting you on the wrong track.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    18 August 2017
  • Recording date
    22 September 2016
  • Location
    St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
  • Organist
    Bart Jacobs
  • Organ
    Christian Müller, 1738
  • Director
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
  • Lights
    Gregoor van de Kamp
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

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