Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott

BWV 720 performed by Theo Jellema
Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Recalcitrant improvisation

The young Bach seems to be at work here

Luther’s Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott’is the battle hymn of the Reformation, so you might expect Bach to have made more than one organ arrangement of it. Yet it remained a one-off, undated piece, whose authorship is even doubted by some. The earliest copy is found in the Plauener Orgelbuch, which was compiled in 1708. So if it is indeed a work by Bach, then it is one from his younger years in Arnstadt, Mühlhausen or Weimar. The early version of BWV 720 requires three keyboards and one pedal, as well as a range of striking registers. These are exactly the features of the renovated organ of the Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen, which was revised under Bach’s supervision and probably taken into use in 1709. So it has been suggested that although Bach had already been in Weimar for a year, he could have written this chorale arrangement for the organ in Mühlhausen, even though that does not correspond precisely to the dating of the first source.

But on listening to this quasi-improvisational fantasy, the tangled construction of the composition does not appear to be a special recommendation for the possibilities of this new organ. It is more reminiscent of the recalcitrant organ work he wrote when he was about twenty, which incurred the wrath of the church council in Arnstadt. Whether Bach’s preludes were too long or – on the rebound – too short (like the previously discussed BWV 726), his ‘viele wunderliche variationes’ always remained a thorn in their side. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott continues in this vein for four minutes.

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott
organ works
before 1708
Special notes
The arrangement is one of the group of a few dozen scattered organ chorales by Bach that cannot be traced back to a creation date or occasion.

Extra videos

Organist Theo Jellema

“I was happy to be playing 'Ein feste Burg' here in Grauhof. It's a work by the young Bach.He lived and worked not far from here.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    10 June 2016
  • Recording date
    26 August 2015
  • Location
    Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof
  • Organist
    Theo Jellema
  • Organ
    Christoph Treutmann, 1731
  • Film director and editor
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Camera
    Maarten van Rossem, Onno van Ameijde
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh

Help us to complete All of Bach

There are still many recordings to be made before the whole of Bach’s oeuvre is online. And we can’t complete the task without the financial support of our patrons. Please help us to complete the musical heritage of Bach, by supporting us with a donation!