The Orgelbüchlein ("Little Organ Book") BWV 599-644 is
a collection of 46 chorale preludes for organ written
by Johann Sebastian Bach. All but three of them were
composed during the period 1708–1717, while Bach was
court organist at the ducal court in Weimar. The
remaining three, along with a short two-bar fragment,
were added in 1726 or later, after Bach's appointment
as cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig.
The collection was originally planned as a set of 164
chorale preludes spanning the whole liturgical year.
The chorale preludes form the first of Bach's
masterpieces for organ with a mature compositional
style in marked contrast to his previous compositions
for the instrument. Although each of them takes a known
Lutheran chorale and adds a motivic accompaniment, Bach
explored a wide diversity of forms in the
Orgelbüchlein. Many of the chorale preludes are short
and in four parts, requiring only a single keyboard and
pedal, with an unadorned cantus firmus. Others involve
two keyboards and pedal: these include several canons,
four ornamental four-part preludes, with elaborately
decorated chorale lines, and a single chorale prelude
in trio sonata form. The Orgelbüchlein has a four-fold
purpose: it is a collection of organ music for church
services, a treatise on composition, a religious
statement, and an organ-playing manual.
Here Bach has realised the ideal of the chorale
prelude. The method is the most simple imaginable and
at the same time the most perfect. Nowhere is the
Dürer-like character of his musical style so evident as
in these small chorale preludes. Simply by the
precision and the characteristic quality of each line
of the contrapuntal motive he expresses all that has to
be said, and so makes clear the relation of the music
to the text whose title it bears.
Although originally created for Organ, I created this
Interpretation of Choral Prelude (BWV 625) "Christ lag
in Todesbanden" (Christ lay in the bonds of death) for
Oboe & Strings (Violin, Viola & Cello).