Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
BWV 726 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
Behind the music
Ultrashort and exotic
Bach seems to be deliberately provoking the church council.
This remarkable chorale arrangement is over in less than a minute. The melody comes in immediately and is played all the way through to the end, which shows that this piece was intended simply to accompany the congregation’s singing. Yet within this ultrashort space of time, the four melody lines also alternate with interludes of quasi-improvised strings of notes. As Leo van Doeselaar says in the interview, it is unclear what their function is. In any case, they are no help to the congregation in finding the next note to come in on. And the harmonisations of the chorale fragments themselves are curious too. The interim final chords are jarred by the strangest of dissonants, which lends an exotic touch to the piece.
It is questionable whether the congregation were actually distracted by these sorts of tricks in the accompaniment when singing such a simple tune, as claimed by the church council of Arnstadt in 1706. Yet the council must have had precisely this sort of chorale prelude in mind when they complained of the many strange notes with which Bach peppered his music. And the complaint that their young organist’s preludes were far too short (following their earlier accusation that his preludes lasted far too long) could well be applied to this composition.
We know that Bach sometimes got into trouble in Arnstadt for his inappropriate behaviour. Examples are a fight with a bassoon player, illicit trips to the wine cellar and visits from strange ladies during working hours. But the fact that he could probably also revel in the church council’s struggles to find the right way of formulating their musical dissatisfaction emphasises the darker side of his nature still further. When the church council thought they discerned ‘viele wunderliche variationes’ and even a ‘tonum peregrinum’ in his chorales (we no longer know for certain what they meant by this), Bach’s opinion of his employers must have reached an all-time low. When the angry young man moved to Mühlhausen a year later, it must have been a blessing on both sides.
- Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
- organ works
- ca. 1706-1707
- Release date
- 8 July 2016
- Recording date
- 21 October 2014
- St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
- Leo van Doeselaar
- Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Restoration: Flentrop 2013.
- Frank van der Weij
- Film director
- Jan Van den Bossche
- Director of photography
- Sal Kroonenberg
- Camera assistants
- Andreas Grotevent, Lucas Lütz
- Music production, editing and mix
- Holger Schlegel
- Jasper Verkaart
- Production assistant
- Hanna Schreuders
- Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer
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