Four–part Realizations of Two–Part Schemelli Chorales

29 four–part chorales from the important early Bach chorale collections are realizations of two–part settings from the Schemelli Gesangbuch. Ten of these 29 appear among the individual BWV 253–438 chorales while the remaining 19 have not been assigned BWV numbers distinct from their two–part Schemelli Gesangbuch counterparts.

Published in 1736, the Schemelli Gesangbuch represents the very first foray into music printing by the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf and presents chorales in two–part soprano–bass format with thoroughbass figures included. Its preface indicates Bach’s involvement in the project: "[T]he melodies to be found in this musical songbook have been in part quite newly composed and in part improved in the thoroughbass by the most noble Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach." (reprinted in Wolff, Learned Musician, p.374)

Given the lack of information regarding the origins of the BWV 253–438 Breitkopf chorales, it is impossible to know whether the two–part Schemelli settings are reductions of these four–part chorales or whether the four–part settings are later realizations of the two–part settings. We are left to speculate. (See, for example, NBA III/2.2 KB p.41 footnote 14: "Hinsichtlich ihrer Entstehung ist eine Priorität der Schemelli–Lieder damit nicht angezeigt, denn es muß grundsätzlich offenbleiben, ob der zweistimmige Continuo–Satz oder der vierstimmige Satz der zuerst entstandenen gewesen ist.")

What we do know, however, is that the process of creating four–part realizations of soprano–bass settings with figured bass was an intergral part of Bach’s pedagogical approach. In a letter to Forkel, C.P.E. Bach described his father’s teaching method this way: "To start with, his pupils had to learn to master a pure 4–part figured bass. After that he took up the chorales with them, first he gave them the bass line and they had to invent the alto and tenor parts for it. Then he taught them how they should invent the bass parts on their own." ("Den Anfang musten seine Schüler mit der Erlernung des reinen 4–stimmigen Generalbaßes machen. Hernach gieng er mit ihnen an die Choräle; setzte erstlich selbst den Baß dazu, u. den Alt u. den Tenor musten sie selbst erfinden. Alsdenn lehrte er sie selbst Bäße machen." Bach–Dokumente (Supplement to the NBA) Volume 3; Item 803 p.289. Translation by Thomas Braatz.)

Thus, it may be that the two–part settings that Bach contributed to the Schemelli project were taken from his pedagogical repertoire. These chorales are, after all, distinct from the hymn tunes for which Bach showed strong preference when composing his large choral works (e.g. the cantatas, passions, etc.). Only two of the 29 chorale melodies featured in these settings appear among the four–part chorales from these extant large choral works ("Ermuntre dich mein schwacher Geist" in BWVs 11.6, 43.11, 248.12 and "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog" in BWV 123.6). Furthermore, only two of the 29 settings appear in the Dietel collection, a manuscript that was presumably copied directly from Bach’s Thomaskirche inventory of large choral works, and one of those two Dietel settings, BWV 299, is featured in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach.

The Question of Authenticity: Given the possibility that these settings came from Bach’s teaching materials and given the nature of their origins — none of these settings survive from extant original sources and only the two Dietel settings date from before Bach’s death — it is impossible to assert with complete confidence that J.S. Bach composed these four–part settings himself. This may be particularly true for those ten settings that come from the final section of the Penzel collection (NBA Source E), a section consisting almost entirely of settings whose authenticity has been doubted. (See NBA III/2.2, pp.37–41)

The 29 settings are listed below, with the two–part Schemelli settings listed on the left and their four–part counterparts on the right. As the fourth column indicates, only ten of the four–part settings have been assigned separate BWV numbers, these appearing in the Breitkopf publication. Other collections listed in the final column include the Dietel manuscript (NBA Source A1), the AmB 46II manuscript (A3/C), the Birnstiel publication (B1), the Penzel manuscript (E), the Becker publication (F4), the St. Mark Pasticcio, and the Riemenschneider publication.

Each four–part settings that is marked with an asterisk (*) features soprano–bass counterpoint that is not identical to its Schemelli counterpart. Differences may be in rhythm, metric placement, or embellishments (e.g. passing tones). In addition, several four–part settings feature inner voices that are more elaborate and embellished than the thoroughbass figures indicate.

Schemelli TitleTune Title4–pt
447 3. Der Tag ist hin, die Sonne gehet nieder O höchster Gott, o unser lieber Herre 297 Breit. 232, AmB 46II p.204, Penzel 193, Riem. 232
448 4. Der Tag mit seinem Lichte fleucht Der Tag mit seinem Lichte fleucht X Penzel 205
463 5. Herr nicht schicke deine Rache Herr, deine Ohren zu mir neige X Becker 170A
453 7. Eins ist not, ach Herr Eins ist not, ach Herr X Becker 202b
471 10. Jesu deine Liebes Wunden Jesu deine Liebes Wunden X Penzel 204
454 12. Ermuntre dich mein schwacher Geist Ermuntre dich mein schwacher Geist X Becker 9C
476 15. Ihr Gestirn, ihr holen Lüfte Ihr Gestirn, ihr holen Lüfte X Becker 121A
481 18. Lasset uns mit Jesu ziehen Lasset uns den Herren preisen 413 Breit. 220, AmB 46II p.181, Penzel 186, Riem. 220
487 19. Mein Jesu, was für Seelenweh Mein Jesu, was für Seelenweh X Penzel 217
498 21. Selig wer an Jesum denkt Selig wer an Jesum denkt X Penzel 221
499 22. Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig 410 Birnstiel 177, Breit. 172, AmB 46II p.145, Penzel 137, Riem. 172
500 23. So gehst du nun mein Jesu hin So gehst du nun mein Jesu hin 500a Penzel 219, St. Mark Pasticcio
501 26. So gibst du nun, mein Jesu, gute Nacht So gibst du nun, mein Jesu, gute Nacht 412 Breit. 206, AmB 46II pp. 94 & 146, Penzel 136, Riem. 206
441 27. Auf, auf! mein Herz mit Freuden Auf, auf! mein Herz mit Freuden X Dietel 95*
445 29. Brunnquell aller Güter Brunnquell aller Güter X Penzel 214
449 31. Dich bet ich an mein hüchster Gott Dich bet ich an mein hüchster Gott X Penzel 226
452 32. Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen 299 Dietel 6, Breit. 209, AmB 46II p.175, Penzel 184, Riem. 209, Becker 162
496 35. Seelenbräutigam Seelenbräutigam X Becker 104A [similar to BWV 409]
461 37. Gott leben noch Gott lebet noch 320 Breit. 234, AmB 46II p.209, Penzel 158, Riem. 234
443 47. Beschränkt ihr Weisen, diese Zeit Beschränkt ihr Weisen, diese Zeit X Penzel 222
470 53. Jesu, Jesu, du bist mein Jesu, Jesu, du bist mein 357 Breit. 244, AmB 46II p.211, Riem. 244
485 54. Liebster Immanuel, Herzog Liebster Immanuel, Herzog X Becker 150B
506 55. Was bist du doch, o Seele so betrübet Was bist du doch, o Seele so betrübet 424 Birnstiel 199, Breit. 193, AmB 46II p.213, Riem. 193
464 58. Ich bin ja Herr in deiner Macht Ich bin ja Herr in deiner Macht X Penzel 199, Becker 197b
488 63. Meines Lebens letzte Zeit Meines Lebens letzte Zeit 381 Breit. 345, AmB 46II p.103, Riem. 346
495 65. O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen 405 Breit. 213, AmB 46II p.172, Penzel 183, Riem. 213
479 67. Kommt Seelen, dieser Tag Kommt Seelen, dieser Tag X Penzel 202
480 68. Kommt wieder aus der finstern Kommt wieder aus der finstern X Penzel 203
503 69. Steh ich bei meinem Gott Steh ich bei meinem Gott X Penzel 215