Johann Sebastian Bach

An Wasserflüssen Babylon (I), chorale prelude for organ, BWV 653 (BC K76)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    The 17 "Leipzig" chorale preludes of J.S. Bach are called thus not because they were composed in the city of Bach's cantorship, but rather because it was in Leipzig that Bach, sometime during the last few years of his life, revised them and put them together as a single volume of music. Most of the preludes of the group were actually crafted 30 or perhaps even 40 years earlier, during Bach's years in Weimar. An exception to this is the chorale prelude on An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653, which seems to be one of just a handful of organ works written after Bach had moved on to Cöthen and, for the most part, from sacred to chamber music.

    In BWV 653, Bach embeds Wolfgang Dachstein's 1525 melody An Wasserflüssen Babylon in richly ornamented counterpoint. The chorale melody, or cantus firmus, is itself highly decorated, and is placed in the tenor voice; its many phrases -- the first long (and repeated verbatim), the rest no more than four bars each -- are isolated from one another by passages of varying lengths for just the other voices. Only the bass line is without intricate ornamentation -- understandable, as, thanks largely to the innovations of Dutch chorale prelude pioneer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, it is played on the pedals. BWV 653 is a work that Sweelinck, or Pachelbel, or Buxtehude (all masters of the chorale prelude) would likely embrace: like most of the "Leipzig" chorale preludes, the piece reaches back into the vault of Germanic organ tradition. Even -- perhaps especially -- during his final years, Bach's debt to the composers of his youth was in the front of his mind. There are two alternate versions of the prelude on An Wasserflüssen Babylon; they are known as BWV 653a and BWV 653b.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Decca
    2018 Piano Classics PCL 0121
    2018 Aliud Records ACDBN 1032
    2018 Pan Classics PC 10384
    2017 Coro COR 16157
    2017 Signum Classics SIGCD 804
    2016 Globe Records GLO 5262
    2015 Melodiya MELCD 1002397
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1444
    2015 Prestare ZWF 3331568
    2015 AAO Music MCRP 2688242
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1561
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94792
    2014 Lawo Classics LAWSACD 1056
    2014 Acis Productions APL 58180
    2014 Syrius SYR 141458
    2014 Es-Dur ES 2050
    2014 BNL Productions BNL 112974
    2013 Editions Hortus 20
    2012 Querstand VKJK 1130
    2011 MSR Classics MS 1380
    2011 Musica Rediviva MRCD 016
    2011 Kevin Clarke
    2011 Rondeau ROP605051
    2011 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2010 Documents 233041
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 MDG 9061619
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Dorian 92104
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 862-8
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778628
    2009 Ricercar 289
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Passacaille PAS 954
    2009 Naxos 8572246
    2008 Motette 13151
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4694202
    2008 Motette 50821
    2008 Regent 232
    2008 Pro Organo 7224
    2007 Oehms Classics 553
    2007 Musical Concepts 191
    2007 BIS 1527/28
    2007 Analekta 24022-43
    2007 Stradivarius 33754
    2007 Arte Nova 496810
    2007 Cascade Records 2100
    2007 Erato 4699028
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT051103
    2006 Loft Recordings 1078/79
    2006 Analekta 23112
    2006 Aeolus Music 10181
    2006 Landmark 6011
    2006 Raven 875
    2006 Novalis 150180
    2006 Melba Recordings 301084
    2005 History 204580
    2005 Challenge Records 72146
    2005 Interdisc Trading 97440
    2005 Priory Records 800
    2004 Archiv Produktion 000185602
    2004 Hyperion 67468
    2003 Art & Music 1539/58
    2003 Arte Nova 49681
    2003 Ricercar 212
    2002 Haenssler 94020
    2002 Haenssler 94037
    2002 Hyperion 44121/36
    2001 Calcante Recordings 41
    2001 Pro Organo 7033
    2000 Motette 12391
    2000 Raven 520
    2000 Haenssler 92097
    2000 Archiv Produktion 463712
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73878
    2000 Motette 12451
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290772
    1999 Teldec 3984-25713-2
    1999 Valois 4425
    1999 CPO 999664
    1999 Archiv Produktion 419904
    1998 Haenssler 98182
    1998 Nimbus 5573
    1998 Gothic Records 49099
    1997 Carlton Classics 00402
    1997 Point Classics 265032
    1996 Gasparo Records 321
    1996 Hyperion CDA67071/2
    1996 Camerata Records 197
    1995 Teldec 94459
    1995 Haenssler 98967
    1995 Raven 300
    1995 Novalis 150130
    1994 Naxos 550901
    1994 Novalis 150020
    1994 BIS 235/236
    1994 Erato 96358
    1994 Erato 96718
    1993 Dorian 90149
    1993 Dorian 90152
    Priory Records 267
    Magic Talent 48045
    Pearl 9959
    Brilliant 93102-VOL6
    Brilliant 99706
    Brilliant 93102/139
    Brilliant 99706/1
    Analekta 4031
    Digital Concerto 615
    Powder Classics 5056
    Capriccio Records 10038
    History 204584
    Interdisc Trading 97440/2
    Erato 88174
    Hyperion 44131
    Ligia 104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    Archiv Produktion 463722
    Ligia 104077/80
    Meyer Media 10013
    Accord 149514
    Cascade Records 2136
    Berlin Classics 0093632BC
    Christ Church, New Haven 1063
    Edgewood 14600