Fugue in G major / Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt
BWV 957 performed by Bart Jacobs
Behind the music
A mystery solved
After 250 years, a short fugue for harpsichord shows its true colours.
This is not the only work by Bach without a clear context. There are dozens of them, certainly within the organ repertoire. However, few pieces underwent such a dramatic twist as this one. With no handwritten source by Bach, Machs mit mir Gott, nach deiner Güt was regarded for many years as a fugue. It was even undecided whether it was a fugue for harpsichord or organ. That is until the discovery in New York, in 1985, of the Neumeister Sammlung, which contained an extra long version of BWV 957 among all sorts of other hitherto unknown works by Bach (and other composers).
Even more exciting is that in this source the fugue is followed seamlessly by a setting of the chorale Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt. The experts soon set to puzzling it out and what do you know – the chorale melody is present throughout the work, although well concealed in the decorative fugue theme. Although eyes are more useful than ears in this case, listen carefully to each ‘heavy’ beat of the bar. This really is a chorale arrangement. It is a unique piece – or did Bach write more fugues using this technique?
In the words of the hymn arranged by Bach, Johann Schein (one of Bach’s predecessors in Leipzig) was thinking about the end of life. To us, this may seem a melancholy theme, but for Baroque congregations death was a doorway to heaven, which you could confidently open with God at your side. Cheerful music was therefore quite suitable, certainly for a closing line like ‘Herr, in deine Händ’, ist alles gut, wenn gut das End’.
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.
- Fugue in G major / Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt
- organ works
- before 1720
- Release date
- 4 August 2017
- Recording date
- 22 September 2016
- St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
- Bart Jacobs
- Christian Müller, 1738
- Bas Wielenga
- Music recording
- Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
- Music edit and mix
- Guido Tichelman
- Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
- Gregoor van de Kamp
- Jessie Verbrugh
- Onno van Ameijde
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