Front Page Titles (by Subject) O Gott, du frommer Gott. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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O Gott, du frommer Gott. - 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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O Gott, du frommer Gott.
Johann Heermann’s hymn, “O Gott, du frommer Gott,” entitled “Ein täglich Gebet” (A daily prayer), was first published, but not to the above melody, in his Devoti Musica Cordis (Leipzig, 1630), in eight stanzas. A posthumous ninth stanza2 was added to the hymn in the Hanover Neue Musikalische Kreutz-Trost- Lob- und Dank Schuhle (Lüneburg, 1659).
The melody (supra) is found for the first time in the New Ordentlich Gesang-Buch (Hanover, 1646), set to Johann Heermann’s hymn, “Gross ist, O grosser Gott.” A widespread and erroneous impression that Bach composed it arose, presumably, from the fact that his harmonized version of the melody is found in Schemelli’s Hymn-book (1736) (Erk, No. 103). Elsewhere it occurs only in the Organ works. His version of the last two phrases of the tune is not uniform. In the Organ Partite infra it approximates significantly to a Hamburg text of 1690. Witt (No. 527) uses another melody.
N. xix. 44. The melody is treated in a series of nine Partite, or Variations. Spitta is convinced that they were written in Lüneburg, or under the direct influence of Böhm, in the first decade of the eighteenth century1 , a conclusion supported by the strong Hanoverian associations which attach to Bach’s melodic text and to the added ninth stanza. Schweitzer also holds them to be the product of Bach’s earliest youth, on the ground of the awkward harmonization of the melody and the optional use of the Pedal2 . Parry finds in them an air of ingenuous simplicity that proves them to be very early compositions3 . It is the more interesting to find the youthful Bach illustrating in some of them the text of the hymn, the number of whose stanzas corresponds with the number of Partite.
Partita I may be regarded either as an introduction to stanza i, or perhaps as a broad expression of the opening line
O Gott, du frommer Gott,
the word “frommer” summoning the picture of a Personality strong, reliable, unwavering.
The second stanza hardly invites pictorial treatment. Bach would appear, as Spitta notes, to be copying Böhm’s habit of extending the cantus.
Stanza iii, like its predecessor, does not appear to have drawn the juvenile Bach to attempt illustration.
In Partita IV Bach’s youthful eye caught the words “Gieb das ich meinen Feind...überwind” (Help me to overcome my foe); the left hand sounds a triumphant rhythm.
In Partita V the general atmosphere of “Fried und Freundschaft” (peace and friendship), of which the corresponding stanza speaks, draws from Bach one of his characteristic joy motives in the animated semiquaver passages which accompany the cantus.
Stanza vi, with its reference to “meine graue Haar” (my hoary head), summons to Bach’s mind instantly the picture of an old man with halting footsteps groping his way to the grave. The same idea is expressed by similar means in “Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf” (N. xv. 53) and “Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund” (N. xv. 67).
In Partita VII, by prolonged descending passages in the first four bars and at the close of the movement, Bach illustrates the word “Grab”:
By similar means a quarter of a century later, in the last number of the St Matthew Passion, he pictured the lowering of the dead Christ to the tomb.
In Partita VIII, in chromatic passages, Bach pictures the torture of the dead awaiting judgment.
Partita IX is built throughout upon the rhythm of fervent adoration elsewhere found in “Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottes-Sohn” (N. xv. 9) and “Lob sei dem allmachtigen Gott” (N. xv. 11).
The ms. from which the Partite were published by Griepenkerl in 1846 belonged to Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818). Another ms. is in the Collection of Bach’s pupil Krebs, and bears the inscription “J. S. B.” Naumann mentions a third copy by F. Roitzsch in Dehn’s Collection, inscribed “da Giov. Bast. Bach.”
[* ] A Lüneburg text of 1665 has a ♯
[1 ]Chorale Book for England, No. 115. The original hymn has only eight stanzas.
[2 ] The translation of it supra is by the present writer.
[1 ] Vol. i. 211.
[2 ] Vol. i. 282.
[3 ] P. 505.