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Composed: c. 1708–1717

About this Piece

One of 46 Lutheran hymn tunes Bach set in his Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), meant as a teaching tool for young church organists, the Chorale Prelude sets a Passion hymn that translates as “O man, bewail thy sins so great,” with a melody by Matthias Greiter and words by Sebald Heyden. Bach would return to that melody in versions of both his St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion. In this Chorale Prelude, Bach reflects the somber, guilt-ridden tone of the text, letting the melody slowly unfold, he still adorns the theme with plenty of his characteristic ornamentation. —Ricky O’Bannon