Bach, Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf (BWV 617) | Secrets of Organ Playing Contest, week 88

This is my entry for the Secrets of Organ Plaing Contest, Week 88. I play one of Bach's chorale preludes I've always wanted to be able to play. It is part of the Orgelbüchlein (little orgel book) and a prime example of Bach's enormous talent to create tonal pictures that express the emotional content of a choral text, even to those who never even read the text itself.

In English the fist phrases of the chorale translate something like "Lord Gott, now open wide thy Heaven, my hour of departure draws near. My hour of departure draws near, my course is run and my soul rejoices".

In other owrds, it is a song of someone who knows his/hers life draws near the end, and who rejoices of meeting everlasting rest in the present of his/hers Lord. The end of life is always a bit sad, but it signifies a new beginning as well. Bach expresses magnificently both the sadness and the rejoicing et the same time.

The pedal expresses the knocking at the gates of Heaven. The left hand plays a line of continuous sixteenth notes. With its colourfull chromaticism (okay, that was a pleonasm) and lively rythm it expresses at the same time the sorrow and the the joy. The right hand plays the choral melody ánd a counter melody that augments the sadness and the joy.

I still remember the first time I heard this piece as a youth (probably 11 or 12 years old). Of course I did not grasp the subtlety of the music then. I only knew, at a very basic level, this was music at it's purest. And at it's most confusing, because of the contradicting layers of emotions in it.

Without getting into technical details, believe me, it is devilishly difficult to play. Well, at least to me. All the praticing I've done the last five years, have lead me to today, where I am finally able to play this piece. Still not without mistakes, forgive for those, but I am thrilled to be able to play it.

Actually, listening again to it, I think I've played it too fast. It deserves a more relaxed, somewhat more slow tempo. Well, that's music, a performance is never really finished...

The recording was done with the Hauptwerk software and the sampleset, made by Sonus Paradisi, of the Schittger organ in the St. Martini-kerk, Groningen (


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