Orgelbüchlein

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by Johann Sebastian Bach

Choosing a piece[edit]

The Orgelbüchlein collection represents a wide range of technical difficulty: any piece, or level, is appropriate for the service playing exam. The table below assigns a difficulty grouping for each piece, 1 being the most accessible, 5 being the most challenging. (The groupings are adapted from Quentin Faulkner. [1])

The Chorales[edit]

Click to sort by BWV number, Title, or Season *Information is entered concerning this work
BWV Is there info? Title Season Level of Difficulty
599 * Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland Advent 1
600 Gott, durch deine Güte (Gottes-Sohn ist kommen) Advent 4
601 * Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottes-Sohn (Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset) Advent 3
602 * Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott Advent 3
603 Puer natus in Bethlehem Christmas 3
604 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ Christmas 1
605 Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich Christmas 4
606 Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her Christmas 3
607 Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar Christmas 4
608 * In dulci jubilo Christmas 4
609 Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich Christmas 3
610 Jesu, meine Freude Christmas 2
611 Christum wir sollen loben schon Christmas 3
612 Wir Christenleut' Christmas 4
613 Helft mir Gottes Güte preisen New Year 4
614 * Das alte Jahr vergangen ist New Year 5
615 In dir ist Freude New Year 4
616 Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin Epiphany 3
617 Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf Epiphany 4
618 O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig Lent 3
619 * Christe, du Lamm Gottes Lent 2
620 Christus, der uns selig macht Lent 4
621 Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund Lent 2
622 O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß Lent 5
623 Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ Lent 3
624 Hilf Gott, daß mir's gelinge Lent 4
625 * Christ lag in Todesbanden Easter 2
626 Jesus Christus, unser Heiland Easter 3
627 Christ ist erstanden Easter 3
628 Erstanden ist der heil'ge Christ Easter 3
629 Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag Easter 3
630 Heut' triumphieret Gottes Sohn Easter 4
631 Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist Pentecost 3
632 Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend' Pentecost 3
633 Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier 2
634 Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (alt. version of BWV 633) 2
635 Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot' 4
636 Vater unser im Himmelreich 3
637 * Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt 3
638 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her 3
639 * Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ 1
640 In dich hab' ich gehoffet, Herr 3
641 Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein 5
642 Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten 2
643 * Alle Menschen müssen sterben 2
644 Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig 4

Background and General Perspectives[edit]

These 46 short chorales were composed while he was court organist at the ducal court in Weimar (1708–1714).

Orgelbüchlein (literally translated, "Little Organ Book")--a collection of 46 of the most commonly-used Lutheran chorales. 164 settings were planned, but completed only 46. Most of them were composed during his Weimar period (c. 1713-1716), where he was a Chamber musician and later Concertmeister to Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst. Weimar (1708-1717) was his most productive period in organ composition

Organization of the planned collection: 2 halves: Part one traces the path of the Liturgical Year (Starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, etc.). Part two uses chorales based on events of Christian life. Thus, the title "The Liturgical Year" is inappropriate. It may have been conceived of as a complete yearly cycle of chorale preludes. The entire book was laid out (164 settings), the pages ruled, and the titles placed. The layout of the book required that the pieces be short.

Factors contributing to the historical importance of the collection:

  • A. Limitation of size ruled out the large "for-imitation" style of the past--had to be a more economical format
  • B. Motifs are often fragments of the chorale tune itself
  • C. Pictorial motifs brought the message of the text forward in the music. Examples: "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt [corrupted]" dissonant, descending sevenths in the pedal refer to mankind's fall and "Puer Natus in Bethlehem" includes rocking cradle motif.
  • D. Substantial, self-sustaining pedal part was rather unique
  • E. The collection served several functions: 1. Pedagogical--practice material for up-coming organists, 2. Service music--introductions for congregational hymns, 3. Examples for advanced pupils on how to improvise a chorale prelude.


For details, see the Wikipedia article

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

Registration and Organs[edit]

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See the footnote in the "Notes" section at the bottom of the page. [2]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

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Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

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Ornamentation[edit]

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Tempo and Meter[edit]

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Recordings[edit]

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Free Online[edit]

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Pay to Listen[edit]

William Porter at the 1723 Hildebrandt at Störmthal., including 10 other pieces from Das Orgelbuchlein.

Other Resources[edit]

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Notes[edit]

  1. Faulkner, Quentin, ed. J.S. Bach, Basic Organ Works: Orgelbüchlein and Three Free Works. Historical Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Edited by Wayne Leopuld. Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997, 32-33.
  2. This footnote was entered in the "Registration and Organs" article.

This space is for automatic insertion of footnotes. To enter a footnote from anywhere in the article, start by typing the tag <ref> and then enter the text, and type the tag </ref> to end the footnote. The footnote will then appear in this "Notes" section automatically.