Front Page Titles (by Subject) Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund. - 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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Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund.
The Passiontide hymn, “Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund,” was written by Johann Böschenstein, and is found in an undated broadsheet circa 1515. Whether it is a translation of Peter Bolandus’ “Stabat ad lignum crucis” cannot be stated positively.
Boschenstein was born at Esslingen, in Würtemberg, in 1472. In 1514 he published a Hebrew grammar at Augsburg and in 1518 settled at Wittenberg (where Melanchthon was his pupil) as a teacher of Greek and Hebrew. Later he taught Zwingli Hebrew at Zurich. He died in 1539 or 1540 at Nördlingen.
The melody (supra) traditionally associated with the hymn appears first in Valentin Babst’s Geystliche Lieder (Leipzig, 1545), and is there set to the hymn “In dich hab’ ich gehoffet, Herr.” The large number of texts of the tune found in the latter half of the sixteenth century proves it to be of earlier date than 1545. The first half of it is practically identical with the melody of Luther’s “Es woll’ uns Gott genädig sein,” which is found in use at Strasbourg in 15251 . The latter tune was reconstructed by Johann Walther from pre-Reformation material, and, with “Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund,” probably traces to a common, perhaps secular, source.
The tune occurs only in the Orgelbüchlein. Bach’s form of the cantus differs in lines 2, 3, and 4 from the 1545 text. He closely follows Witt (No. 113), whose version is sanctioned generally by sixteenth century usage.
N. xv. 67. The movement is the centre of the Passiontide section of the Orgelbüchlein. The recurring Pedal rhythm, heavy, syncopated, pictures the weary exhaustion of the hanging and suffering Jesus. In two other Orgelbüchlein movements Bach conveys an impression of lassitude by the same means. In “Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf” (N. xv. 53) he seizes the lines of the first stanza
to represent in the Pedal the stumbling steps of the dying man groping towards his goal. In “Hilf Gott, dass mir’s gelinge” (N. xv. 76) Bach fastens on the stanza of the hymn which recalls that Christ
For our trespas on Croce He hang
and represents the heavy agony of the tortured Saviour in a Pedal rhythm which supports the narrative cantus above it.
Were not Bach so naïve in his literalness, it would be extravagant to interpret the seven octave leaps upward1 that end each statement of the Pedal motive (bars 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10) in “Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund” as expressing the physical effort of the dying Saviour to speak the last seven Words.
[1 ] Ed. 1746, Part II. p. 714. The original hymn has nine stanzas.
[1 ] See the melody in Bach’s Chorals, Part II. 271.
[1 ] In fact the interval in bar 4 is a seventh.