Completing Bach's plan
Patrons: Paul McCreesh, Dame Gillian Weir, The Revd Donald Reeves MBE
Academic Advisor: John Scott Whiteley

[NB Page under construction]

The missing Chorales from the Orgelbüchlein: guidance on what these melodies might have been

Deciding on the melodic sources for Orgelbüchlein Project compositions is a difficult task. Some of the missing melodies are not treated by Bach elsewhere, and are hymns which have dropped from the repertory. Some are treated by Bach elsewhere, but, as is customary, in more or less decorated forms. Most of the repertory of harmonised chorales by Bach (‘Riemenschneider’ et al) involve a degree of melodic decoration, passing notes etc, especially at the cadences. Bach’s settings in Orgelbüchlein, likewise, present variously decorated/elaborated versions of the chorale melody.

Composers may wish to simplify or omit these (usually quaver and semiquaver) decorations when composing their piece (in search of an Ur-melody). On the other hand, if a Bachian sense of melodic decoration is desired, they can be retained. Where available, we have provided a link to a suggested version of the chorale to take as the basis for Orgelbüchlein Project compositions.

‘Zahn’ refers to Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder, aus den Quellen geschöpft und mitgeteilt by Johannes Zahn (Gütersloh, 1889-93, 6 volumes). This is a repository of all known chorale melodies, though often given in early forms.

‘Witt’ refers to C F Witt’s Psalmodia Sacra (Gotha, 1715). A hymnal which probably influenced the ordering and choice of chorales in Orgelbüchlein. Only two chorales in Orgelbüchlein are not found in Witt.

Academic Advisor to the Project, John Scott Whiteley, has made many discoveries in researching the missing melodies. His work is ongoing, and some of the fruits of it will appear on this page over time .


6 Lob sei Gott in des Himmels Thron: Zahn 1748, melody by J M Altenburg, though the chorale was also sung to ‘Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ’. Not in Gotha (1715).


28 O Jesu, wie ist dein Gestalt: See here for the Weimar (1681) version of this melody.

29 O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid (first two bars by Bach, as BWV Anh. 200): See BWV 404

30 Allein nach dir, Herr Jesu Christ, verlanget mich: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody, also given as Zahn (8544).

31 O wir armen Sünder: See BWV 407

32 Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen: See BWV 245.3 or No 5, here, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

33 Nun gibt mein Jesus gute Nacht: Zahn (340c) gives the tune in Gotha (1715), proper to ‘Herr Jesu Christ wahr Mensch und Gott’.


40 Gen Himmel aufgefahren ist: See here for the version in Gotha (1715), also given as Zahn (189).

41 Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder, all: See BWV 387


42 Komm, heiliger Geist, erfüll die Herzen deiner Gläubigen: See here for the tune given in Gotha (1715), which can be seen here in its earlier version (Zahn 8594).

43 Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott: See here for the version in Gotha (1715), harmonised by Bach as BWV 175.7. This is the chorale featured in the motet Der Geist hilft.

45 Nun bitten wir den heil’gen Geist: See BWV 385 (Riemenschneider No 36) or here for the Gotha (1715) version.

46 Spiritus Sancti gratia or Des heil’gen Geistes reiche Gnad: Gotha (1715) has the melody by M Vulpius, seen here in an edition. Bach sets a different melody (BWV 295), seen in the following picture taken from Weissenfels (1714). However, this is likely to be Weissenfels and Leipzig usage rather than Thüringian. Former melody therefore more likely for Orgelbüchlein use: Ob 46

47 O heil’ger Geist, du göttlich’s Feu’r: See here for the Gotha (1715) version.

48 O heiliger Geist, o heiliger Gott: Here is the version given in Gotha (1715). The same tune also occurs as No. 159 in Freylinghausen’s hymnal (Halle/Hamburg 1704), which may be viewed here.


52 Gott, der Vater, wohn uns bei: See here for the version in Gotha (1715). See also this version, from Weissenfels (1712/14). The asterisks in this edition (by JSW) represent divergences from Bach’s setting, BWV 371.

53 Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr: See BWV 104.6

54 Der du bist drei in Einigkeit: See BWV 293

St John the Baptist

55 Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel: Zahn (5854) is the ‘proper’ melody, though Gotha (1715) directs it to be sung to ‘Meine Seel’ erhebt den Herren’.

Visitation of the BVM

56 Meine Seel’ erhebt den Herren: See BWV 323

St Michael the Archangel

57 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir: Here is the version given in Gotha (1715).

58 Es steh’n vor Gottes Throne: Melody by Joachim von Burck. See BWV 309.

Feasts of the Apostles

59 Herr Gott, dich loben wir

Use of Chorale by Bach: BWV 16, BWV 119, BWV 120, BWV 190, BWV 725

60 O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. See also BWV 184 (1724) and BWV 757.

The Ten Commandments

62 Mensch, willst du leben seliglich: Melody: Gotha (1715) directs it to be sung to ‘Dies’ sind die heilgen zehn Gebot’. Zahn has the ‘proper’ melody at 1956.

63 Herr Gott, erhalt’ uns für und für, die reine Katechismuslehr’: Gotha (1715), the only known one to CS Terry, is Zahn 443

(NB There is another hymn, by Becker, “Herr Gott, erhalt’ uns für und für, die reine Augspurgische…” – not the same!)

The Creed

64 Wir Glauben all’ an einen Gott: See here, No 10,  for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

Holy Baptism

66 Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam: See here for the version in Gotha (1715).

Penitence and amendment

67 Aus tiefer Not: See here, No 11, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

68 Erbarm’ dich mein, O Herre Gott: Probably by J Walther (not JG), text & melody here. Bach set this chorale in BWV 721.

69 Jesu, der du meine Seele: Gotha (1715) sets it to ‘Wachet doch, erwacht, ihr Schlafer’

Use of Chorale by Bach: BWV 78, BWV 105

70 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ: Melody attrib. J Schneesing. See BWV 33/vi or here, No 12, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

71 Ach Gott und Herr: see here, No 13, for the version of this melody in Gotha (1715), which is in the minor. See also BWV 48 and BWV 255.

72 Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut: Takes a variety of forms. In Gotha (1715) it’s the tenor of Wenn mein Stündlein

Use of Chorale by Bach: BWV 48, BWV 113, BWV 166, BWV 168

73 Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder (=Herzlich thut mich verlangen): See here, No 14, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

74 Wo soll ich fliehen hin: Here is the melody as found in BWV 163, a Cantata from the Weimar period. This is (?) Stieler’s melody, as found in Gotha (1715), rather than the tune Bach uses later, that for Auf meinen lieben Gott.

75 Wir haben schwerlich: version from Gotha (undated) here. Gotha (1715) uses 5-part setting from Gotha (1648), Zahn 2099.

Holy Communion

78 Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, Der von uns den Gotteszorn wand. See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

79 Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet: See BWV322

80 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt: Gotha (1715) has this melody (fitting the text Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, hält mich in seiner Hüte) but Weissenfels (1712/14) and Gotha (1648) have a different text (Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, dem ich mich ganz vertraue) to a different melody, by Schütz (see here). It is difficult to know which melody Bach might have intended in Ob. NB Bach uses neither of these melodies in BWV 112, but instead Allein Gott.

81 Jetzt komm ich als ein armer Gast: Gotha (1715) directs it to be sung to the melody Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, which is to be found at No 29, here. Proper melody is Zahn 4646

82 O Jesu, du edle Gabe: Gotha (1715) has this melody (Zahn 3892b), not used by Bach elsewhere.

83 Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ, Dass du das Lämmlein: This hymn is not in Gotha (1715). Here you will find the two versions given in Zahn, 479 and 480. I await further information about which might have been  closest to the Bach circle/Weimar.

84 Ich weiss ein Blumlein hubsch und fein: Set in Gotha (1715) to the tune Ich hab’ mein Sach’ Gott heimgestellt, a later text for this melody, which Bach uses several times, in a Cantata (BWV 106/2, c 1707. NB tenor used rather than soprano melody), BWV 351 (Choralgesang), BWV 707, 708, 1113 (Organ chorales), NB are all these occurrences Mühlhausen??? Does this suugest Ich hab’ mein Sach Gott heimgestellt was a chorale of Mühlhausen use, but not in places of Bach’s later work?

Several hymnals direct one to the tune Kommt liebe Kinder kommt

85 Nun freut euch, lieben Christen, g’mein: Bach sets this chorale in the Christmas Oratorio, thus. This is a slightly elaborated version of the melody found in Gotha (1714).

86 Nun lob’, mein’ Seel’, den Herren: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this tune, also used by Bach in BWV 225 (The motet ‘Singet’) and BWV Anh. 160 (=BWV231),  ‘Jauchzet den Herrn’.

The Common Weal

87 Wohl dem, der in Gottes Furcht steht: This is the version in Weissenfels (1714).

88 Wo Gott zum Haus nicht giebt sein’ Gunst

Christian Life and Experience

89 Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh’ allzeit: See here for the melody in Gotha (1715).

90 Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn

92 Weltlich Ehr’ und zeitlich Gut: There are two likely possibilities for this melody. See here for the melody in Gotha (1715), or here for BWV 426.

93 Von Gott will ich nicht lassen

94 Wer Gott vertraut

95 Wie’s Gott gefallt, so gefällt mir’s auch: Zahn 7576 gives the tune in the Plauener Orgelbuch. Please note, this link is an edited version by John Scott Whiteley. Please do not use this music without crediting him.

96 O Gott du frommer Gott: See here for version in Gotha (1715). Bach used this melody in several cantatas, and harmonised it as BWV 399, for instance, but please note this is not the same melody as used in his Partita.

In time of trouble

97 In dich hab’ ich gehoffet, Herr

99 Mag ich Ungluck nicht widerstahn: Zahn 8113

101 An Wasserflussen Babylon

102 Warum betrubst du dich, mein Herz. See here for version in Gotha (1715).

103 Frisch auf, mein’ Seel’, verzage nicht: Gotha (1715) directs to Was mein Gott will, though it is perhaps more likely that Bach intended to use the Gotha (1648) tune: Zahn 7578 - Frisch auf.

104 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid: Bach tends to use this melody, Herr [O] Jesus Christ, mein’s Leben Licht (II), for this chorale (Zahn 533a).

105 Ach Gott, erhör’ mein Seufzen und Wehklagen. Bach set this chorale as BWV 254, which is identical in all but key to Gotha (1715), here (NB penultimate note is incorrect). Would Orgelbüchlein have perhaps used the higher key, G minor?

106 So wünsch’ ich nun ein’ gute Nacht: See here for the Gotha (1715) version.

107 Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost : Gotha (1715) directs us to the melody Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält. But there is another proper melody. Which to use?

108 Wenn dich Unglück thut greifen an: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

109 Keinen hat Gott verlassen: Version in Weissenfels (1714):Weissenfels, Keinen hat Gott verlassen

110 Gott ist mein Heil, mein’ Hulf’ und Trost: See here, No 21, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

111 Was Gott thut, das ist wohlgethan, Kein einig. See here for the Görlitzer Tablaturbuch setting (Scheidt, 1650). Also in Gotha 1648 (awaiting this source for posting).

112 Was Gott thut, das ist wohlgethan, Es bleibt gerecht: See here, No 31, for the Gotha (1715) version of this tune, or here for Weimar (1681).


a) Psalm Hymns

114 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein: Here is some information about this melody. This would perhaps be a good key and melodic form to take as the basis of an Orgelbüchlein Project composition.

115 Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl: See BWV 308

116 Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott

117 Es woll’ uns Gott genadig sein: Phrygian melody.

118 Wär’ Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit: See here for version in Gotha (1715) and here for Bach’s version in the Cantata BWV14. Note how Bach has elaborated and chromaticised the original.

119 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt

Uses of the Chorale by Bach:

BWV 73 (1724) – but with text from Herr, wie du willst, so schickst mit mir

BWV 114 (1724) – but with text from Ach, lieben Christen, seid gestrost

BWV 178 (1724)

+ 3 settings in Choralgesänge

120 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.


b) God’s Holy Word

121 Wie nach einem Wasserquelle: Gotha (1715) directs to the melody Ach wann werd ich dahin kommen, given here, No 35, in both the Weimar (1681) and Gotha (1715) versions. Bach uses a further variation of the melody in BWV 1119. There is also a possible relationship to the chorale Freu’ dich sehr, O meine Seele, for which see further discussion here

122 Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort: See here, No 17, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

123 Lass’ mich dein sein und bleiben


In time of War

124 Gieb Fried’, O frommer, treuer Gott: Here is the version in Weissenfels (1714)

125 Du Friedefurst, Herr Jesu Christ: See here, No 16, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

126 O grosser Gott von Macht: This page gives some information on melodic source, including the only known use of the chorale by Bach. Here is the version in Weissenfels (1714): Weissenfels, O grosser Gott von Macht


Death and the Grave

127 Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist

128 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott.

129 Mitten wir im Leben sind: Bach sets the tune as BWV 383, here. Weissenfels (1714) gives this version:Weissenfels, Mitten wir im Leben sind

130 Alle Menschen müßen sterben: See here, No 32, for the Weimar (1681) version of this tune, as used in Neumeister collection.

132 Valet will ich dir geben. See BWV 415.

133 Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben: See here, No 26, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. Bach sets this chorale in the Neumeister collection. NB also used by Schubert and Brahms.

134 Christus, der ist mein Leben: See here, No 27, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

135 Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dich, O Herr: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody (or transcribed here at No. 30). NB Tune also used in John Passion, as last chorale.

136 Auf meinen lieben Gott

137 Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiss gar wohl

Bach uses hymn in Cantata 166 (1724)

138 Mach’s mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt’: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this tune, where it is called Wie soll ich doch die Güte dein’. The tune is well-known from the John Passion, and Bach also used it for a Neumeister Prelude.

139 Herr [O] Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht: Given that Bach set Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (No 104, above) several times to this melody, I suggest using this alternative melody (set by Bach as BWV 335, or Zahn 314, and known as Herr  [O] Jesus Christ, mein’s Leben Licht (I)).

140 Mein’ Wallfahrt ich vollendet hab': Version in Zahn, here:Zahn, Mein Wallfahrt

141 Gott hat das Evangelium: Bach set this melody (BWV 319).

142 Ach Gott, thu’ dich erbarmen:  See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. Both Bach, in Neumeister Chorale BWV 1109 and Walther in his organ chorale, rhythmicise this melody into triple time.(NB the melody given as Zahn 7228c is slightly different to both Bach’s and Walther’s use, especially in line 8 of the tune).

Morning hymns

143 Gott des Himmels und der Erden: See BWV 248 (Christmas Oratorio, Part V, Zwar ist solche Herzensstube)

144 Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre: See BWV 347.

145 Aus meines Herzens Grunde: See BWV 269.

146 Ich dank’ dir schon durch deinen Sohn: See BWV 349.

147 Das walt’ mein Gott: See BWV 291

Evening hymns

148 Christ, der du bist der helle Tag: See here, No.36, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. See also BWV 273 or BWV 766.

149 Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht: See BWV 274 or here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody.

150 Werde munter, mein Gemüte: See here, No 34, for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. See also BWV 154/iii and St Matthew Passion.

151 Nun ruhen alle Wälder: Melody originally by Isaac. See here.

Grace at meals

152 Danket dem Herrn, denn er ist sehr freundlich: See here for the version in Gotha (1715) or Bach’s version is BWV 286. The Gotha melody is the tenor of another hymn, ‘Vitam quae faciunt beatiorum’.

153 Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herren: See here for the version in Gotha (1715), with a misplaced pause in line 2, or here for further contextual info. BWV79/6 would be a good version of the melody to use, if starting from a Bach melodic version.  Sometimes sung in Britain as ‘A brighter dawn is breaking’.

154 Lobet den Herrn, denn er ist sehr freundlich: See here for the version in Gotha (1715) or BWV 374 for a version by Bach.

155 Singen wir aus Herzensgrund: See here for the version in Gotha (1715).

For good weather

156 Gott Vater, der du deine Sonn: Gotha (undated) gives the melody here, also seen as Zahn (380). It is by N Herman. Also seen here, No.199 in Nicolai’s ‘Schwarzburg-Rudolstädtisches Gesangbuch’ (Leipzig, 1765).

The life eternal/appendix

157 Jesu, meines Herzens Freud’: Zahn (4797) gives the melody in the minor.

158 Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen: See BWV 259.

160 Ach, was ist doch unser Leben: Version from Gotha (undated) here, also given in Zahn (1208). Bach uses this melody in BWV743.

161 Allenthalben, wo ich gehe: See here for version in Gotha (1715) and here for extracted melody. Also as Zahn (1338b). Another version here (1st of 3) in König’s Harmonische Lieder-Satz (Frankfurt, 1738), on p 424.

162 Hast du denn, Jesu, dein Angesicht: See BWV 57.8 for Bach’s choral setting in B flat, or here for the Gotha (1715) version, in G major, a more plausible key for an Orgelbüchlein setting.

163 Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gutig or O Jesu du edle gabe: Melody probably by G Vopelius. See BWV 410

164 Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele: Melody by Crüger. See BWV 180.7


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