Johann Sebastian Bach

Ach Gott und Herr, chorale prelude "per canonem" for organ, BWV 714 (BC K172)

    Description by Rovi Staff

    As organist at Weimar, Johann Sebastian Bach was charged with providing a harmonic underpinning for the singing of Lutheran chorale tunes chosen for each day. Bach wrote out many of these harmonizations, in part as instruction for younger composers (they are still used for this purpose). A derivation of this practice, Bach's conception of the organ chorale, as manifested in the chorale preludes, dates from 1713 -1714, about the time he became familiar with Vivaldi's concertos.

    Bach's Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) contains chorale preludes for the church year written during the composer's service at Weimar (1708 - 1717). In about 1713, Bach began assembling the Orgel-Büchlein, and his earliest entries seem to be Her Christ, der ein'ge Gottes-Sohn, BWV 601, In dulci jubilo, BWV 608, Christ ist erstanden, BWV 627, and Heut' triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BWV 630. These were very original compositions, highly expressive miniatures based on a chorale melody, supported with refined counterpoint, and featuring highly condensed motivic writing.

    Bach's Orgelbüchlein was essentially complete by 1716. Only the fragment O Traurigkeit and the chorale prelude, Helft mir Gottes Güte preisen, BWV 613, were added later. "Complete" is used with some reservation here, because Bach originally projected 164 pieces but completed fewer than 50. In Bach's manuscript, pages with finished pieces alternate with blank ones intended for other chorale preludes. The later pieces differ from Bach's earlier chorale elaborations, in that they contain only one statement of the melody and are intended to demonstrate how to accompany a chorale with contrapuntally proper figurations that support the meaning of the text.

    In the early 1740s Bach assembled a number of chorale preludes, possibly with the intention of publishing them as a set. These Achtzehn Choräle (Eighteen Chorales) BWV 651 - 668 were almost certainly written before 1723 and revised later. The Fantasia super Komm, heiliger Geist, BWV 651 is an especially impressive, extended elaboration of the chorale melody, which is in the pedal. The tune is treated in a less ornate fashion in the next prelude of the set (BWV 652). The highly convoluted Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BWV 658 also contains the chorale melody in the pedal.

    The six Schübler chorales (BWV 645 - 650) are derived from Bach's cantatas and contain one of his most popular chorale preludes, on the melody Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645.

    The third part of Bach's Clavier-Übung, published in Leipzig in 1739, contains 21 chorale preludes (not all appear in every publication), many of which are for manuals only. Nine of these are meant for use during the Mass, while the others are for the catechism. Among the most impressive is Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 671, which is in five voices with the chorale melody in the pedal. More complex is the first of two preludes on Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 686, which is in six parts, including two pedal parts.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Harmonia Mundi HMM 90245356
    2018 Decca
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 808
    2015 BNL Productions 112836
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95005BR
    2015 Prestare ZWF 3331567
    2012 Regent REGCD 328
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Dorian 92104
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 862-8
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778628
    2009 Ricercar 289
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4694202
    2007 Musical Concepts 191
    2007 BIS 1527/28
    2007 Analekta 24022-43
    2007 Erato 4699028
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2006 Danacord 640
    2005 Motette 13241
    2004 ASV 120
    2003 Art & Music 1539/58
    2002 Hyperion 44121/36
    2001 Calcante Recordings 41
    2001 CPO 999755
    2001 Meridian Records 84081
    2000 Hyperion CDA67215
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73878
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290772
    1999 Haenssler 92086
    1999 Teldec 3984-25713-2
    1999 Valois 4425
    1999 Berlin Classics 0093642
    1997 Arte Nova 31680
    1996 Naxos 553629
    1995 Haenssler 98908
    1995 Vox 5100
    1995 London 444410
    1994 Erato 96358
    1994 Erato 96721
    1994 BIS 379
    1993 Dorian 90152
    1992 Telarc Distribution CD80286
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 1905158
    1992 Chandos 527
    1986 Newport Classic 60001
    1986 Newport Classic 60002
    Brilliant 93102-VOL6
    Brilliant 99706
    Brilliant 93102/147
    Brilliant 99706/9
    Arte Nova 30462
    Arte Nova 30464
    Analekta 4024
    Ricercar 246762
    Calliope 9707
    Ligia 104046/48
    Erato 45808
    Ricercar 246772
    Hyperion 44135
    Ligia 104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    EMI Music Distribution
    Nimbus 5669