Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639)

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from Das Orgelbüchlein by Johann Sebastian Bach

Background[edit]

The five verses of Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesus Christ are a prayer for faith, hope, and love in times of despair. The text was written by Johann Agricola (1494-1566) and published before 1530.[1]

I call to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
I beg, hear my complaint!
Grant me grace at this time;
let me not despair!
The pure faith, Lord, I wish
that You would give me:
to live to You
to help my neighbor,
and to keep Your Word faithfully.[2]


This chorale is the only three-voice texture in the prelude collection and could be a transcription of an accompanied aria. The soprano line has a quarter note motion (with written ornamentation), continuous sixteenth note groupings in the middle voice, and eighth notes in the bass.

The music is in the remote key of F minor, described by J. P. Kirnberger, a pupil of Bach, as "the least pure, and thus the saddest."[3]

Registration and Organs[edit]

Suggested registration:

Right Hand: Principal 8'; Cornet; 8' and 2-2/3'; Reed and Flute 8'.

Left Hand: Flutes or 18th-century String stops 8' or 8' and 4'; (the slurs are reminiscent of the bowings for the Viol da Gamba in 18th-century music, suggesting the appropriateness of an 8' String stop).

Pedal: Flutes or 18th-century String stops 16' or 16' and 8'. [4]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

The pedal part contains many repeated notes, and may be played with a small separation between each note.

The pedaling "can be performed by using only the toes (either alternating toes or using the same toe on two notes in succession). [5]

Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

The autograph slurs in the middle voice may be a direction to play the 16ths in imitation of the bowing style of a player of the viola or viola da gamba. In this style, the articulative silence between the slurred groups should be very small and resemble the effect of changing bow direction in string playing.[6]

The appoggiatura in the solo line, m. 3, should be played as an eighth-note d-flat precisely on beat two, slurred to the following c. [7]

Ornamentation[edit]

Ornaments should be played with flexibility and freedom against the continuous motion in other voices.[8]

In the first half of the setting the tune is somewhat ornamented, while in the second half, curiously, it is plain. This state of affairs may be a signal that the performer is free to devise appropriately similar ornamentation for the second half. On the other hand, it may be an intentional reflection of the shift of emphasis that occurs half way through the text, from a plaintive to a more sturdy and confident character. [9]

Tempo and Meter[edit]

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Scores and Editions[edit]

Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, Volume 2, J.S. Bach—Basic Organ Works (ed. Quentin Faulkner)

Completely fingered in early fingering styles. Includes helpful information on the original chorales and performing the works.

J. S. Bach: Orgelbuchlein (ed. Robert Clark and John David Peterson)

Includes helpful information on the original chorales and performing the works.

IMSLP, Bach Gesellschaft edition

Free download

Recordings[edit]

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Free Online[edit]

James Kibbie, 1717 Trost organ, St. Walpurgis, Großengottern, Germany, using _____.

Pay to Listen[edit]

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Other Resources[edit]

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Notes[edit]

  1. Mark Steven Bighley, "The Lutheran Chorales in the Organ Works of J. S. Bach" (D.M.A.diss., Arizona State University, 1985),185.
  2. Johann Sebastian Bach: Orgelbuchlein. Ed. Robert Clark and John David Peterson. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1984), 122.
  3. Johann Phillip Kirnberger, Die Kunst des reinen Satzes in der Musik, vol. 1, 1771; vol. 2, part 1, 1776; trans. David Beach and Jurgen Thym, The Art of Strict Musical Composition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 341.
  4. J. S. Bach 1685-1750: Basic Organ Works. Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Ed. Quentin Faulkner. Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997.
  5. J. S. Bach 1685-1750: Basic Organ Works. Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Ed. Quentin Faulkner. (Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997), 27.
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach: Orgelbuchlein. Ed. Robert Clark and John David Peterson. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1984), 122.
  7. J. S. Bach 1685-1750: Basic Organ Works. Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Ed. Quentin Faulkner. (Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997), 161.
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach: Orgelbuchlein. Ed. Robert Clark and John David Peterson. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1984), 122.
  9. J. S. Bach 1685-1750: Basic Organ Works. Historical Organ Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Ed. Quentin Faulkner. (Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997). 161.