Herr Gott, dich loben wir

Johann Sebastian Bach

Herr Gott, dich loben wir


About this work

This is one of Bach's large-scale chorale preludes, having both a sizeable scope and substantial length. Lasting about ten minutes, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Lord God, we praise You) features a relatively terse theme and a cantus firmus in the upper register appearing throughout the work. This effort is the Germanic counterpart to the Te Deum and is one of Bach's more challenging compositions for organists, not so much because of technical considerations, but primarily owing to interpretive ones. In the wrong hands, the work can sound repetitive and lacking in color, leaving its audience bored. Good organists capture Bach's subtle developmental and motivic workings and his masterful sense for atmosphere. The work opens with the theme presented in a fairly straightforward and somber manner. Brief pauses at the ends of phrases give the music a sort of stop-and-start gait. Soon the pacing exhibits more animation and while the music retains its hesitant movement forward, it develops a more emphatic and more epic manner as if Bach has converted what seemed a limp into a steady proud stride. Textures gradually fatten, too, and the work takes on a more epic demeanor coupled with a growing sense of expectation. Bach makes the music sprout new motives and subtle contrapuntal ideas, in the end producing a work whose subtle nuances and expressive depth will reward the patient listener.