Front Page Titles (by Subject) O Lamm Gottes unschuldig. - Bach's Chorals, vol. 3 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works
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O Lamm Gottes unschuldig. - 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 Lamm Gottes unschuldig.
There are two forms of the ancient melody of the “Agnus Dei” adapted by Nikolaus Decius to his translation of that hymn: the original published in 1542, and a later version published in 15452 . The latter is in use particularly in North Germany and Bach uses it with textual variations, chiefly in the fourth phrase of the tune. It occurs in the St MatthewPassion (1729), No. 1, Choralgesange, No. 285, and the two Organ movements infra. In the second of them (No. 110) Bach’s melodic text approximates to a reconstruction of the 1545 version found in an Eisleben Hymn-book of 1598 (supra).
The melody occurs in two Organ movements:
N. xv. 58. The movement is the first of the Passiontide Preludes in the Orgelbuchlein. The cantus is accompanied by a sequence of sobbing notes slurred in pairs. In Bach’s unvarying idiom they depict mental pain in contradistmction to the chromatic sequence by which he represents physical suffering. Bach’s melodic text conforms closely to Witt’s (No. 104).
N. xvii. 32. The Prelude, the sixth of the Eighteen Chorals, is a setting of the three stanzas of the hymn. In Verses 1 and 2 Bach does not attempt word painting. But at bar 19 (N. xvii. 37) of Verse 3, anticipating the melodic phrase of the line
Our sins Thou bearest for us,
Bach introduces a subject clearly based on it
which, upon the entry of the cantus (N. xvii. 38, bar 4), accompanies it with increasing urgency of self-accusation until the words
Else had despair reigned o’er us
are heard in the cantus (N. xvii. 38, bar 10). Chromatic sequences, entering at the bar, express in poignant harmonies the agony of the Saviour’s death. With the entry of the last phrase of the cantus (N. xvii. 39, bar 1) and its petition
Grant us Thy peace to-day, O Jesu!
the threnody is stilled, and undulating quaver sequences remind us, as Schweitzer comments1 , of the angelic proclamation of “Peace on earth” in some of the Christmas Preludes. The final ascending cadence may be pictured as the Heavenward flight of the angelic messengers.
P. vii. 97 prints an older reading of the movement. The ms. of it is among the Krebs mss.
[1 ]Chorale Book for England, No. 46. The original hymn has three stanzas.
[2 ] Both are printed in Bach’s Chorals, Part I. 1, and Part II. 495.
[1 ] Vol. ii. 72.