Johann Sebastian Bach

Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein (I), chorale prelude for organ, BWV 734 (BC K125)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    It is frequently the task of musicologists and serious-minded performers, when dealing with so extensive a musical output as J. S. Bach's (not only an extensive output but also one produced before the advent of copyright laws or even reliable publication and whose works were thus subject to all sorts of changes and rewrites as they got transmitted down from one manuscript to another over the decades), to sort through all the many versions of a given piece that exist and to try, at the end of all this digging, to come up with what might reasonably be called the "authentic" version of that piece. Very often in the case of Bach and other high-profile composers, the task is impossible, but sometimes the evidence in favor of one version or another is strong enough for the myriad individually-minded scholars to reach a consensus and the catalog of works to be altered to reflect the new agreement. This is more or less what has happened over the years regarding Bach's organ chorale prelude on "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein." The prelude, thought to have been composed sometime during Bach's years as court organist in Weimar (1708-1717), survives in two versions, sometimes cataloged as BWV 734 and BWV 734a. In the one version of the piece, the original Lutheran chorale melody (the cantus firmus, it is called) on which Bach's elaboration is based is played by the hands on the organ manuals; in the other version the cantus firmus is found in the organ pedals, with a few minor but, when dealing with so important a part of the repertoire as Bach, vital changes to the music of the other voices. Neither version survives in a truly authoritative source, but over time and for a variety of reasons, the version with the cantus firmus in the pedals has fallen somewhat into scholarly disfavor and more often than not been labeled "inauthentic," leaving the manual-only version of "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein" as the sole heir to the heading BWV 734.

    The melody of "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein" is one of the earliest Lutheran hymn tunes, having been derived by Martin Luther himself in 1524 (the tune was also associated, from 1682 on, with the text "Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit," and one will occasionally find BWV 734 under that title). Bach puts this cantus firmus in the tenor voice, to be played by the inner fingers of the left hand while the bass moves along in steady eighth notes and the right hand indulges in a florid sixteenth-note obbligato whose opening tones subtly foreshadow, in outline, the first five or six notes of the tenor's cantus firmus melody. As in the original hymn, the first pair of phrases are repeated; the final three phrases make for one long push towards the final G major cadence, richly extended (in Bach's usual plagal/subdominant way) by the running bass and treble obbligato under the umbrella of the tenor's sustained G pedal tone.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 ABC Classics
    2018 Willowhayne Records LCSCD 006
    2018 Decca
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon 4835022
    2017 Analekta AN 291568
    2015 Gall (formerly Gallo) CD 1431
    2015 Claves CD 501503
    2015 Claves 1503
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95005BR
    2015 ArcoDiva UP 0169
    2014 Cobra Records CBA 38
    2013 Camerata Records CMCD 28244
    2013 Melodiya MYD 1002109
    2012 Lawo Classics LWC 1035
    2012 MDG MDG 9141743
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2011 Sony Classical 8869781742
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779527
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 862-8
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778628
    2010 Regent 301
    2009 Ricercar 289
    2009 Opening Day Recordings 9303
    2008 Analekta 29907
    2008 Chandos 0510
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4694202
    2007 Musical Concepts 191
    2007 BIS 1527/28
    2007 Analekta 24022-43
    2007 Elatus
    2007 Naïve V 5101
    2007 Priory Records 6009
    2007 Erato 4699028
    2007 Master Chord MC CD 1
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2006 Calliope 5722
    2006 Analekta 3091
    2006 Raven 810
    2006 Raven 875
    2006 Analekta 8216
    2005 History 204580
    2005 Danacord 620
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000506802
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 477 5759GOM2
    2005 Organ Arts 4135
    2005 Archipel 0246
    2005 Raven 740
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585630
    2004 Archiv Produktion 000185602
    2004 Challenge Records 72061
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585246
    2003 Art & Music 1539/58
    2003 Ricercar RIC 221
    2002 Hyperion 44121/36
    2001 Calcante Recordings 41
    2001 Motette 50721
    2000 Archiv Produktion 463712
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73878
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290772
    1999 Teldec 3984-25713-2
    1999 Valois 4425
    1999 Hyperion 67213
    1999 Pearl 9262
    1999 Haenssler 92098
    1999 Archiv Produktion 419904
    1998 Archiv Produktion 457631
    1998 Supraphon 3317
    1997 Arte Nova 31680
    1997 RCA Victor 68816
    1997 Querstand 9602
    1997 APR (Appian) 5517
    1996 Sony Classical 62385
    1996 Naxos 553629
    1996 Magic Talent 48005
    1995 London 443485
    1995 Haenssler 98908
    1995 London 444410
    1995 Centaur Records 2246
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 65398
    1994 Supraphon 112892131
    1994 Erato 96358
    1994 Erato 96721
    1994 BIS 439
    1994 Motette 11491
    1994 Erato 92888
    1994 Symposium 1145
    1993 FSM Adagio 97709
    1991 Sony Classical 47273
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 763538-2
    Cameo Classics / Vox 8860
    Brilliant 93102-VOL6
    Brilliant 99706
    Brilliant 93102/151
    Brilliant 99706/13
    Arte Nova 30464
    Analekta 4022
    Musica Viva 1030
    Selene 940723
    Ligia 104046/48
    Erato 45808
    CPO 999654
    ToccaTa Records 941
    Hyperion 44133
    Ligia 104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    Archiv Produktion 463721
    Disques Pierre Verany 789104
    Vox 5013
    History 204582
    Nimbus 5669
    Newport Classic 60090
    Amphion 136
    Grammofono 2000 78619/21
    Erato 88030
    Berlin Classics 0093632BC
    Multisonic 0192
    Grammofono 2000 78520
    Sirio 530026