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German organists during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were expected to perform a number of functions in the worship service, and a collection of service music such as The Neumeister Collection represented a practical solution to meeting the musical demands of the Liturgy. Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706), a German organist, composer, and theorist, states in his Orgelprobe (1698) that organists should be able to improvise, transpose, read “ground bass,” be thoroughly knowledgeable of French songs and dances, and be capable of tuning the organ and repairing mechanical malfunctions. He further states in his 1702 treatise, Harmonologia musica, that churches should require their organists to be able to improvise fugues, vary a chorale in several ways to avoid monotony, transpose a chorale into every key, be able to read both tabulature and figured bass, and be knowledgeable about music and the organ.20 The more important services of the German Lutheran Church during the Baroque Era were the Hauptgottesdienst, the main worship service on Sunday morning, Besteinde, the Monday morning prayer service, Frühgottesdienst, the early midweek service, occurring on Thursday mornings, and the Sunday evening Vespers services. The function of the organ during these and other services was not always clear. According to the Ordo Peter Williams, The Organ Music of J. S. Bach, vol. III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 32-33.

Cantionum at Halle and the Tabulatura Nova of Samuel Scheidt, 1624, also of Halle, the

organ was to play at the following places in the worship service:

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The order of worship as well as the practice of alternum, alternating musical statements between organ and choir, cantor, or congregation, was not standardized, however, and varied from city to city. Peter Williams, in The Organ Music of J. S. Bach, states various methods which could have been used by organists during the Lutheran


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The Vespers services were also musically important and were included in the duties of organists of large churches; it was at these that the Magnificat was sung. In Leipzig, there were two types of Vespers using organ music: those on feast-days and those on Sunday evening. Ensemble music was included in the service music for these Williams, III, 13.

Williams, III, 13.

occasions except during times of mourning, Advent, and Lent. The use of postludes varied from city to city. Existing orders of worship dating from 1710 show the listing of a Psalm, followed by a motet, then the sermon, and finally a setting of the Magnificat.23 In addition to playing instrumental service music and accompanying, the organist was expected to provide interludes between stanzas of hymns or chorales and to fill any noticeably long silences during the Liturgy with music, such as a short improvisation on a chorale melody. Christoph Raupach (1686-1744), organist of the Stralsund Nikolaikirche, outlined his ideas for such improvisation; this is contained in Table 3.

The function of the organ in the seventeenth- to eighteenth- century German Lutheran Liturgy can be summarized thus: to supply solo music at appropriate points either before, during, or after the Liturgy; accompany the singing of hymns and other music sung by cantors, choirs, and/or congregation; provide interludes between sung musical verses; and improvise music to fill the silent portions of the Liturgy. Jacob Adlung, an eighteenth-century musician and scholar, provides additional functions: to introduce the key and melody of the upcoming hymn to the congregation; and to “...delight them through edifying thought.”24 In addition to these functions, the organ was expected to supply the appropriate music for each liturgical season or category and to ensure that the music adequately conveyed the mood of the text. The use of a single chorale melody in various contexts and forms during the Liturgy was a unifying element;

the more recognizable the melody, the more unified the service.

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Table 3.

Suggested Techniques for Improvisation as Written by Christoph Raupach in His Essay Veritophili deutliche BeweisGründe, worauf der rechte Gebrauch der Music beydes in den Kirchen und ausser denselben beruhet

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2. C.f. in pedal, manual with syncopations 2. Strong stop, 4 parts, little fugue on the chorale, allegro & suspensions; in 4 parts

3. Simple Choral in rh, lh in 2 parts with 3. C.f. in rh, lh on second manual; total= 2 parts suspensions, short Tiraten, Groppi; total=3 parts

4. Simple Choral in lh, bass in ped., rf as 4. C.f. in lh, rh with moving Contrapunctus floridus; total= 2 parts in no. 3, but 1 part only; total=3 parts

5. Lamento with quiet stops on which the simple Choral 5. C.f. in ped., lh/rh on one manual with Variation; total= 3 parts

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The Orgelbüchlein, which has long been considered J. S. Bach’s first effort to provide an organized, systematic, usable collection of chorale preludes for an entire liturgical year, shares many striking similarities with The Neumeister Collection. So closely related are these two collections with regard to concept, design, and function, that Christoph Wolff has suggested that The Neumeister Collection may have served as a prototype for the Orgelbüchlein, perhaps even beginning the liturgical cycle of chorale preludes which the Orgelbüchlein later continued. He further states that the inclusion of BWV 601 and BWV 639 in both collections is not a coincidence, but a deliberate attempt by Bach to continue the composition of service music and provide “alio modo” or alternate settings of chorales previously set in The Neumeister Collection.26 Because the layout of the chorale preludes in the Orgelbüchlein was detailed in the autograph before the music was actually written, musicologists have access to Bach’s intentions regarding content. Of the thirty-eight chorale preludes by J. S. Bach in The Neumeister Collection, thirty-five are also set by Bach in the Orgelbüchlein: twenty-five in the planned but unwritten portion, and twelve completed settings. Two chorale preludes, Alle Menschen müssen Sterben, BWV 1117, and Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht, BWV 1096, are found in The Neumeister Collection and both the written and planned portions of the Orgelbüchlein. Again, two chorale preludes occur almost identically in both collections, BWV 601, Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, and BWV 639, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. Table 4 contains a listing of the chorales shared by The Neumeister Collection (abbreviated NC ) and both the written and unwritten portion of the Orgelbüchlein (OB).

Wolff, “The Neumeister Collection,” 120-121.

Table 4.

Chorales Set by J. S. Bach in The Neumeister Collection & the Orgelbüchlein

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Source: J. S. Bach, The Liturgical Year (Orgelbüchlein), ed. by Albert Riemenschneider (Bryn Mawr: Oliver Ditson Company,1933), XIII-XVI.

The Index of the Orgelbüchlein categorizes its content into two general classifications: de tempore, or with regard to a specific time or season of the Church Year, such as Advent, Easter, etc., and omne tempore, meaning topically, covering such areas as the Catechism, funerals, evening, etc. Of the one hundred and sixty-four intended chorale preludes in the Orgelbüchlein, the first sixty are arranged according to de tempore and the remaining one hundred and four chorale preludes are arranged topically, or omne tempore.27 The Neumeister Collection is similarly arranged: the first part contains chorales suitable for the seasons of the Church Year, and the second part is arranged topically.28 These classifications are extremely helpful to the organist in selecting appropriate service music for any part of the Church Year. The omne tempore categories aid in the choosing of music for various occasions, aspects of Christian life, etc. It is of note that the two collections have little overlap of categories; together, they complement each other without having an excess of chorale tunes in any one area. Table 5 illustrates the liturgical classifications of chorales in both The Neumeister Collection and the Orgelbüchlein according to their layout in the autograph, the number of chorales each collection contains or was intended to contain in each liturgical category, and the BWV number of the chorale prelude (or in the case of the unwritten portion of the Orgelbüchlein, the number of the intended composition). Astericks indicate alternate titles.

Russell Stinson, “The Compositional History of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein Reconsidered,” in Bach Perspectives, ed. Russell Stinson, vol. 1 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 2-3.

Wolff, “The Neumeister Collection,” 111-112.

Table 5.

Liturgical Classifications of Chorales Shared by The Neumeister Collection and the Orgelbüchlein

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Source: J. S. Bach, The Orgelbüchlein, ed. A. Riemenschneider (Bryn Mawr: Oliver Ditson Co., 1933), XIII-XVI.

Because the primary function of a liturgical collection of chorale preludes is to provide an available, useable, and versatile selection of sacred music for use in the Liturgy throughout the Church Year, the grouping of chorale preludes in the Index of the collection is helpful to the church organist in selecting music for a particular occasion, function, aspect of Christian Life, etc. A listing of alternate settings of particular chorales is also helpful; Table 6 on the following page shows the occurrences of shared chorales found in The Neumeister Collection and other collections of chorale preludes by J. S.

Bach (excepting the unwritten portion of the Orgelbüchlein). It also indicates the use of the same chorale in miscellaneous or independent manuscripts. Although chorale forms will be discussed in more depth in the upcoming chapter, they are included here with the chorales in collections to illustrate the many different settings used by Bach and to offer a variety of choices to the liturgical organist. Those forms which show elements of several types of chorale preludes will be indicated by parenthesis; if such an occurrence is sectional, the appropriate section (i.e., “A,” “B,”...) will also be included. The following abbreviations are used in all further charts and tables: CU for Clavierübung, III; 18 for the Eighteen Great or Leipzig Chorales; Misc. for miscellaneous manuscripts (i.e., those which are not included in chorale collections). Asterisks indicate the use of an alternate title for the same chorale; abbreviations can be found in the List of Abbreviations, page v.

Table 6.

Chorales in The Neumeister Collection Shared by Other Organ Collections of J. S. Bach

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music, a summary of the salient points made in this chapter would be helpful. The thirtyeight chorale preludes by J. S. Bach contained in this compilation offer a wide variety of liturgical music which is technically accessible to organists of any playing ability. They are catalogued liturgically in the Index of The Neumeister Collection and in that of the Orgelbüchlein; this grouping of chorales is extremely helpful to the organist. All of the works in The Neumeister Collection are short, most are under two minutes in playing time, and could be used at any point in the Liturgy where music is required. Furthermore, many of these chorale preludes are sectional, allowing the musician greater flexibility in ending the piece. For a listing of the estimated playing times of these chorale preludes

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In The Style of J. S. Bach’s Chorale Preludes, Robert Tussler begins his discussion of chorale forms by comparing his analytical classifications with those of two of his predecessors, Spitta and Schweitzer. Spitta classified chorale preludes into three types: “pure” chorale preludes (i.e., a four-voice harmonization of a chorale); organ chorales; chorale fantasias. Schweitzer, on the other hand, used stylistic traits from earlier composers as a basis for categorization. He divided chorale preludes into three totally different types: those using the “motivistic method” of Pachelbel in which the entire prelude is constructed from a series of motives derived from the chorale melody;

the “coloristic method” of Böhm, featuring fragmentation of the melody and manipulation of melodic material around a simple harmonic framework; and lastly, the “chorale fantasia style” of Buxtehude, featuring bravura writing, fragmentation of the melody and sectional form.29 Tussler himself uses the chorale melody as the primary factor determining form.

He divides chorale preludes into two broad categories: those bound by the chorale melody and the “free” types, or those not bound by melodic restrictions. His criteria for chorale preludes bound by the melody include the presence of the chorale tune in its entirety, and can be seen in the forms melody chorale, ornamented melody chorale, cantus firmus chorale, chorale motet, and chorale canon. The chorale forms which

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