About this work
This chorale prelude was written around the same time as the identically titled one in Bach's Orgelbüchlein (The Little Organ Book). There, the piece appears as the tenth entry in the Christmas section. This BWV 696 chorale prelude is likewise based on the theme in the chorale "Christum wir sollen loben schon" (Christ, we now praise) and is a bit shorter than its two-minute counterpart in the Orgelbüchlein. The title of both works refers to the Christ child and can also be translated as Christ, we already praise. BWV 696 is a slow piece whose fugal writing and diminutive size prompt a classification as a fugetta. It is not technically challenging to the organist; neither is its appeal immediate to the listener. Yet the work is ultimately rewarding, owing to Bach's sense for atmosphere and subtle development. The chorale theme is initially treated solemnly, but as it emerges from the barren writing of the opening it takes on greater color and warmth, its textures thicken, and its contrapuntal activity infuses the piece with a good measure of expressive depth. Still, this work is not a major effort by Bach, though it must be assessed as at least a minor gem.