Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

BWV 739 performed by Theo Jellema
Stiftskirche St. Georg, Goslar-Grauhof

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Youthful exuberance

Filled with optimism, Bach lets the organ rejoice in the higher regions

‘Schön’, ‘süsse’, ‘lieblich’, ‘freundlich’, ‘herrlich’, ‘gross’, ‘ehrlich’, ‘reich’, ‘hoch’ and ‘prächtig’. These are the words sung about the morning star in the title of this chorale arrangement. This morning star usually refers to Venus, the planet that shines brightly in the sky just before dawn. Here, of course, the morning star is Jesus Christ.

The beautiful, optimistic words are excellently matched by the music, in which the organ rejoices in the higher regions from start to finish. It does so to such an extent that it is hard to spot the original melody, which first appears in long notes in the upper part and then in the pedal. At around five minutes, this arrangement is on the long side for a chorale prelude, which has led to much speculation about what it was intended for. In view of the various variation-like and independent decorations that follow one another, you could call this a ‘free’ chorale fantasy, in the style of Buxtehude and his contemporaries.

Paper analysis has shown that the piece must have been notated between 1703 and 1709. The score is the oldest surviving manuscript by Bach. It is easy to make the mental leap from this manuscript to Bach’s famous trip to Northern Germany in 1705 to hear the famous organist Dietrich Buxtehude. Maybe he wanted to show this piece to the great master, or maybe it is a composition expressing the inspiration found by the young Bach in Lübeck. It is clear that here, too, he surpassed all his examples. “The youthful exuberance”, writes Bach biographer Christoph Wolff, “borders on exaggeration here and there”. The voluptuous ‘coda’ in the final bars, in particular, would not have gone down well with many a listener. In any case, Bach was proud of this chorale fantasy, of which he always kept a neat copy.

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
organ works
ca. 1705
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

“Theo Jellema explains the difference between a chorale fantasy and a chorale adaptation.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    7 July 2017
  • Recording date
    24 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

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