Front Page Titles (by Subject) Christ lag in Todesbanden. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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Christ lag in Todesbanden. - Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach’s Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works 
Bach’s Chorals. Part III: The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works, by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
Part of: Bach’s Chorals, 3 vols.
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Christ lag in Todesbanden.
Luther’s Easter hymn, “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” was first published in 1524, and is described as the Easter Carol “Christ ist erstanden” “improved.” The melody, to a greater extent than the words, is drawn from the ancient hymn. It was published with Luther’s hymn in 1524 in two forms2 , and is a reconstruction of the original melody of which, no doubt, Johann Walther was the author. In the Organ works, Cantatas 4 and 158 (1708-24), and Choralgesange, Nos. 38, 39, Bach uses the form printed supra. The B natural which he almost invariably substitutes for A as the first note of the fifth phrase of the tune is in Witt (No. 140), as also is C sharp for C natural as the third note of the fourth phrase. For G sharp as the second note of the first phrase Zahn reveals no earlier authority.
The melody occurs in three movements among the Organ works:
N. xv. 79. The short movement is instinct with the triumph of Easter. The Pedal, its jubilant rhythm notwithstanding, interprets the sinister word “Todesbanden” (Death’s dark prison). The semiquaver Pedal phrases may symbolize the rolling away of the sepulchral stone.
N. xviii. 16. (Fantasia). The movement is a Trio, formal and probably written for the “Pedalflügel.” Early copies (six) of it exist in the Kirnberger and other collections. In three of them the movement concludes with the following simple setting. It is omitted in the Novello Edition.
A variant text of the movement (without the concluding Choral) is in B.G. xl. 153 (P. vi. 104). A single ms. of it exists (Schelble-Gleichauf). It differs from No. 24 in that the cantus is on the Pedal instead of in the Alto.
N. xviii. 19. There are three mss. of the movement, none of them authoritative; one, however, bears the inscription “di Gio. Bast. Bach.” The conversation between the Great and Choir manuals in the Novello Edition is distinguished in the Bach Society’s Edition by a series of “forte” and “piano” passages1 . The fact, along with the final crotchet E, shows that Bach wrote the movement for the two-manualed “Pedalflügel1 .” Hence Spitta infers that it was composed at Lüneburg, where Bach had no Organ at his absolute disposal. In general character it resembles the first movement of Cantata 38 (c. 1740) on the first stanza of the hymn.
Besides the above movements, B.G. xl. 174 prints another (P. ix. 56), in which the cantus is on the Pedal. The ms. of it exists among forty-six “Choralvorspiele,” doubtfully attributed to Bach, in the Royal Library, Berlin. A copy of it is also among the Schelble-Gleichauf mss.
[1 ] Cantata 4, Novello’s edition. The original hymn has seven stanzas.
[2 ] See the second in Bach’s Chorals, Part II. 138.
[1 ] They are identically reproduced in the Peters edition.
[1 ] See Spitta, i. 214. On the Organ there would be no need to strike the E. On the Flugel, on the other hand, the E sustained in the preceding chord already would have ceased to be heard.