No.16 Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

Johann Sebastian Bach

No.16 Jesus Christus, unser Heiland


About this work

The exact dating of Bach's Chorale prelude for organ "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland," BWV 666 (Jesus Christ, Our Savior) is difficult because the work was written down by Bach's son-in-law. But that fact leads scholars to believe that it was one of Bach's last works because it is likely that Bach would only have called upon his son-in-law to copy his music if he were himself incapable of doing so, a condition that existed in the last months of Bach's life when he was blind. Be that as it may, the work is an organ setting of a favorite Lutheran chorale. Being a Lutheran chorale, the tune is typically in dark and brooding E minor and, being by Bach, it is typically treated with both intellectual brilliance and spiritual profundity. The four lines of the hymn are set to a 12/8 gigue rhythm against first a rapid eighth-note, three-voice accompaniment and then an even more rapid sixteenth-note, three-voice accompaniment. After the fourth and final line of the hymn, the accompaniment rises up through the keyboard like a cadenza over a tonic pedal then sinks down to the bass to end on a hopeful Piccardy third.