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 underources 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: Weimar (1713) redirects to this tune, Zahn 340c: Nun gibt mein Jesus (Zahn 340c) . NB In Gotha (1715) this melody is proper to ‘Herr Jesu Christ wahr Mensch und Gott’, but Bach is likely to have used a different melody for his Ob setting of ‘Herr Jesu Christ war Mensch und Gott’ (see below at No 128).


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). Here is the version transcribed by John Scott Whiteley (please credit him if used).

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 heilgen 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 heilger 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, derived from Gotha (1715) et al. Walther also set this chorale, and his version follows Gotha (1715) even more closely.

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 stehn vor Gottes Throne: Here is the version as in Gotha (1715). See also BWV 309, though the melody is somewhat varied by Bach.

Feasts of the Apostles

59 Herr Gott, dich loben wir: Given that this chorale is an adaptation of the Te Deum, the text and melody are extremely long. John Scott Whiteley proposes this as a possible melodic source for the necessarily short Ob setting. Please credit him if using this source.

60 O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort: See Riemenschneider No 14 (from BWV 184):Riemenschneider 14 O Herre Gott.  Gotha (1715) has a triple time version of the same melody and BWV 757 is also in triple time. Given the lack of space in Ob (Bach only allotted it a single page), perhaps a common time version was intended.

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, given here in a version by Ahle: mensch-wilt-du-leben-seliglich

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 BWV 280 .

Penitence and amendment

67 Aus tiefer Not: Bach sets a version of this chorale in Neumeister (BWV1099), a tune also used by Walther, Pachelbel, and seen in Gotha (1715). NB this is not the tune in general use in Leipzig (BWV 38, 686, Vetter, Zachow etc).

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 for the version of this melody in Gotha (1715), which is in the minor (or ‘hypodorian’). There are other variants in the major, though they perhaps reflect extra-Thüringian practice.

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 (1715) here, deriving from 5-part setting in 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 from Zahn, of which number 479 is the more likely source for Orgelbüchlein.

84 Ich weiss ein Blumlein hübsch und fein: Set in many hymnals to the tune Ich hab’ mein Sach’ Gott heimgestellt, eg BWV 351. This is a likely source for Bach’s melody in Orgelbüchlein.

85 Nun freut euch, lieben Christen, gmein: 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’. Here is John Scott Whiteley’s version, adapted from J G Walther – possibly a better source for Orgelbüchlein. Please credit him if you use this download.

The Common Weal

87 Wohl dem, der in Gottes Furcht steht: This is the version in Weissenfels (1714), though the Sibley Choral-Buch presents an earlier melody, by Walter (1524).

88 Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein Gunst: The proper melody is in Gotha (1715), and set by Bach as BWV 438.

Christian Life and Experience

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

90 Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn: Final movement of BWV 74 provides a good melodic source.

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 gefällt, 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 Unglück nicht widerstahn: Zahn 8113

101 An Wasserflüssen Babylon

102 Warum betrübst 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: A somewhat complex situation, here. Bach tends to use the melody known as Herr [O] Jesus Christ, mein’s Leben Licht (II), for this chorale (Zahn 533a). Here is his version in BWV 3, and here in BWV 58. Interestingly Walther uses the latter triple-time rhythm in his Chorale Prelude. Perhaps this was what Bach intended for Ob? Since Herr [O], Jesus Christ was also to be set in Ob, Bach may have intended to use the alternative melody for this chorale, Zahn 314c.

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 eine gute Nacht: See here for the Gotha (1715) version.

107 Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost : Gotha (1648) has this melody, transcribed here by John Scott Whiteley. Please do not use this version without crediting him.

108 Wenn dich Unglück tut greifen an: See here for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. Note that Walther set this melody in triple time – perhaps Bach would also have done so? An edition available here:ür_Orgel_(Walther,_Johann_Gottfried)

109 Keinen hat Gott verlassen: Bach sets this chorale as BWV 369, whose metrical nature would serve as a good source for Ob. This is the version in Weissenfels (1714):Weissenfels, Keinen hat Gott verlassen

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

111 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, kein einig. See here for the Görlitzer Tablaturbuch setting (Scheidt, 1650), and here is the version in Gotha (1648): Was Gott tut Zahn 2524  Bach would have made the melody metrical for Ob, of course.

112 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, es bleibt gerecht: See here 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 is a likely form of the chorale Bach knew (please credit John Scott Whiteley if used).

115 Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl: See BWV 308.

116 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: See BWV 303.

117 Es woll uns Gott genadig sein: See BWV 311.

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: Bach uses the chorale in many contexts, eg here, as in BWV 258. BWV 73, 114 and 178 also use the same melody.

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: Both Gotha (1715) and Weimar (1681) direct to the melody Ach wann werd ich dahin kommen, given here, No 35. 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. Gotha (1715) redirects to the melody ‘Ich freu mich in dem Herren’, perhaps the most likely source for Ob:

Witt 385 Lass mich dein sein


In time of War

124 Gieb Fried, O frommer, treuer Gott: Here is the version in Gotha (1648), as transcribed by John Scott Whiteley (please credit him if you wish to use). A more archaic rhythmic and melodic form can be found here, the version in Weissenfels (1714). It is perhaps more likely that Bach would have chosen the ‘cantus planus’ Gotha version.

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 Perhaps the most reliable source for this melody as far as Orgelbüchlein goes is Walther’s organ chorale setting, given here.

Death and the Grave

127 Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist

128 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott. Gotha (1715) has a melody at number 697 for this text, though Bach sets a different melody in the cantata BWV 127, to be found as No 248 in Riemenschneider. This latter melody is also used for Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott by Zachow and Weissenfels (1714), inter alia. We suggest it is the likely tune for Orgelbüchlein.

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 for the Gotha (1715) version of this melody. Bach sets this chorale in the Neumeister collection, BWV1111. NB also used by Schubert and Brahms.

134 Christus, der ist mein Leben: See here for a likely source for 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. See BWV 131.

138 Machs 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, BWV 957.

139 Herr [O] Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht: Given that Bach set Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (No 104, above) several times to this melody, the alternative melody, here, may be more likely for Herr [O] Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht (set by Bach as BWV 335, or Zahn 314, and known as Herr  [O] Jesus Christ, meins Leben Licht (I)).

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

141 Gott hat das Evangelium: See 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, which may well have been Bach’s intention for Ob.

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: BWV 1096 gives a good source, similar to Gotha (1715).

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 or here for the version in Gotha (1715).

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: Here is the preferred version for the Orgelbüchlein Project. For comparison, here is Gotha (1715), and here, No.199 in Nicolai’s ‘Schwarzburg-Rudolstädtisches Gesangbuch’ (Leipzig, 1765).

The life eternal/appendix

157 Jesu, meines Herzens Freud: See BWV 361.

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 an edited version of the same thing, given as Zahn (1338b).

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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