Front Page Titles (by Subject) Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf. - 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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Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf.
Tobias Kiel’s “Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf,” was first published in the first Part of Johann Michael Altenburg’s Christliche, Liebliche Und Andechtige, Newe Kirchen und Hauss Gesange (Erfurt, 1620), with a five-part setting of the melody (supra).
Kiel was born at Ballstädt, near Gotha, in 1584. Educated at Jena, he became pastor at Ballstadt and died there in 1626. The hymn was written for the Feast of the Purification, but was also in use for the Dying, in which mood Bach treats it.
Johann Michael Altenburg, the composer of the melody, was born at Alach, near Erfurt, in 1584. His life was spent in and round Erfurt as teacher and pastor. He died there in 1640. He was a good musician and at one time was precentor in Erfurt.
Bach’s version of the melody is a combination of the descant and Quinta vox of Altenburg’s five-part setting. Bach, however, was not the author of the reconstruction. In the Gotha Cantional of 1646 the positions of the descant and Quinta vox of 1620 are reversed, the latter becoming the melody. Witt (No. 81), in 1715, formed a new melody by piecing together parts of the original descant and Quinta vox1 . His version passed into the Hymn-books of Telemann (1730), Konig (1738), and Freylinghausen (1741). His variation of the second phrase seemingly is his own. Bach uses the tune only in the Orgelbuchlein.
N. xv. 53. The movement represents the Feast of the Purification in the Orgelbuchlein. Bach depicts the faltering footsteps of the aged Simeon (stanza iii) by means of a syncopated and halting Pedal rhythm. His addition of a “second” or Quinta vox to the cantus was clearly suggested by the history of the tune. It is taken from Witt’s four-part setting of the melody, excepting the first note of the eighteenth and last note of the twenty-second bars, which are not congruous to Witt’s figuring.
[1 ]Lyra Germanica (second series, London, 1868), p. 232. The original hymn has three stanzas.
[1 ] The arrows are introduced into the setting supra to show the method of the reconstructed melody.