About this work
This is the penultimate work in the Glaubenslieder (Songs of Faith), the closing section of Bach's early and important collection of Chorale Preludes (45) making up the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book). The Glaubenslieder works are based on chorales whose texts come from a variety of religious subjects and therefore differ from the first 33 in the Orgelbüchlein, whose chorale themes are all related in subject matter to Lutheran feast days. Bach wrote these works when he served as the court organist for the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar from 1708-1717, a period during which he wrote a vast number of organ works. In "Alle Menschen müssen sterben" (All Men Must Die), Bach presents a theme not even remotely as gloomy or morbid as the work's title might suggest. The melody, in fact, is actually joyous and serene, apparently expressing the Christian view that death is the portal to eternal salvation, to a life of eternal happiness in heaven. As usual, Bach invests the work with deft contrapuntal writing, which in this case enlivens the stately and deliberate gait of the chorale theme and also enhances its sense of serenity. This chorale prelude lasts a bit longer than a minute-and-a-half and will appeal to Baroque and organ music enthusiasts.