Front Page Titles (by Subject) Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, Der von uns. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, Der von uns. - 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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Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, Der von uns.
The hymn is a translation, by Martin Luther, of the Eucharistic “Jesus Christus, nostra salus,” generally described as “St Johannes Hussen Lied,” though Hus’s authorship is doubtful. Luther’s hymn was published in Walther’s Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (Wittenberg, 1524) and in Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein (Erfurt, 1524), in both cases with the tune (supra). The hymn is described as “St John Hus’s hymn improved.” In fact only the first of its ten stanzas is based on the Latin. Luther and his musical helper, Johann Walther, appear to have discarded the old melody of the Latin hymn. The 1524 tune is attributed, without strong evidence, to Luther himself. When the hymn was repeated in Joseph Klug’s Geistliche Lieder (Wittenberg, 1535), a tune was substituted for that of 1524, which also bears no resemblance to the Latin melody.
In Choralgesange, No. 206, and the Organ movements infra Bach uses the 1524 melody, his text of which is invariable. His version of the second and third phrases differs from the original and is found in Witt (No. 320).
The 1524 melody appears to have been very dear to Bach. The Organ movements on it number four; two of them in the third part of the Clavierübung, and the other two among the Eighteen Chorals.
N. xvi. 74. The most striking feature of this Clavierübung Fantasia is the arresting “step” motive which paces throughout it, a musical exegesis of the hymn. The striding and confident theme inculcates stedfast faith in the power of the sacrament to forgive sin. “Bach wishes,” writes Schweitzer1 , “to illustrate the Lutheran dogma of the Communion. We know that Luther was opposed to the rationalism of Zwingli, who regarded the sacramental words as symbolical and the whole celebration as a simple ceremony of remembrance. To Luther the essence of the doctrine of the sacrament was faith in a real change in the elements, in virtue of which the Communion gives remission of sins.” Bach shared Luther’s conviction and expresses his confidence in a theme spaced extraordinarily widely. The tremendous “step” motive in the “Sanctus” of the B minor Mass may be compared with it, in which the adoration of men and angels is built upon a theme that strides in octaves and arches the heavens. In the present movement Bach clearly had the fifth stanza of Luther’s hymn before him:
N. xvi. 80. The second of the Clavierübung movements is in strong contrast to its predecessor. Fugal in form, and based on the first phrase of the melody only, it is contemplative in mood, and seems to follow No. 77 as the ninth stanza of the hymn is the corollary of the fifth:
N. xvii. 74. When, eight or nine years after the Clavierubung was published, Bach included two movements upon the melody among the Eighteen Chorals, he approached the hymn from a different standpoint. He probably felt that the first of the Clavierübung movements sacrificed art to dogmatics. The first of the movements in the “Eighteen” is a Communion Prelude; alone of the four it is marked “sub communione.” It is one of two Preludes—“O Lamm Gottes” (N. xvii. 32) being the other—in which Bach illustrates in their sequence the lines of the hymn text. In the present movement he selects from each of the four lines of the first stanza a particular word for illustration:
For the first thirteen bars Bach’s treatment of the cantus is inspired by the word “Redeemer.” At the fourteenth bar he introduces a rhythm which Schweitzer likens to the accompaniment of the Arioso “O gracious God” (No. 60) in the St Matthew Passion, which recalls Christ’s scourging. It suggests the strokes of God’s anger, from which the Redeemer’s Passion rescued mankind, and persists to the twenty-sixth bar, accompanying the second phrase of the cantus. At bar twenty-seven chromatic scale passages picture Christ’s “bitter Leiden” (sufferings sore and main). They are woven above and below the third phrase of the cantus and reach their climax in the thirty-seventh bar. At bar thirty-eight the fourth phrase of the cantus is introduced by a short figure
which typifies the Resurrection and man’s rescue from the pains of Hell. “We fancy,” writes Schweitzer “we can see in this affecting ending the strong arm of the Saviour drawing mankind upward1 .”
B.G. xxv. (2) 188 (P.vi.112) prints an older text of the movement, the ms. of which formerly was in Krebs’ possession.
N. xvii. 79. The movement must have been one of the last Bach revised. The ms. of it is in his son-in-law Altnikol’s hand1 . It is, however, one of Bach’s early works. Schweitzer2 points to the influence of Buxtehude. Spitta3 places the composition in the first years of Bach’s residence at Weimar.
It cannot be without design that Bach devotes the last nine bars of the movement to an elaboration of the fourth phrase of the cantus. Consequently he emphasizes the line:
Did help us all out of hell-pain.
[1 ]Exotics, p. 103. The original hymn has ten stanzas.
[1 ] Vol. ii. 61.
[1 ] Vol. ii. 73. See also Spitta, i. 613. He anticipates Schweitzer’s analysis.
[1 ] Altnikol married Bach’s daughter Elisabeth in 1749.
[2 ] Vol. i. 292.
[3 ] Vol. i. 613.