About this work
This seems to have been Bach's favorite old hymn tune; he set it ten times. Yet this version, probably an early effort revised late in Bach's life, is rare in one sense: it's the only example among Bach's organ chorales of the bicinium, a two-voice pedagogical format popular among Lutheran composers before Bach's time. The melody, adapted in 1524 by Nikolaus Decius from the plainchant "Gloria in excelsis," here appears scattered and jumbled as an ever-modulating arabesque in the bass (played, though, in a high register), while a more sober, minimally ornamented version of the tune tries to make itself felt in the treble. It's the sparkling, virtuosic bass accompaniment, however, that steals listeners' attention and proves the greater challenge for the organist.