SKU: CC289

O Sacred Head, four settings by Johann Sebastian Bach. A familiar chorale to many musicians “O Sacred Head,” or “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” is a hymn based on a Latin text from the Middle Ages. The German text, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” was written by Paul Gerhardt. During the course of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach used the tune in a variety of places, although the first chorale of this set from St. Matthew’s Passion is the most familiar. Because at its core, it is a 16-measure chorale, I thought perhaps an interesting way to showcase it would be to present it in four different versions. The first three are basic chorale treatments, originally intended to be sung, and the final, fourth iteration, is a chorale prelude adaptation that Bach composed for the organ.

The four versions are as follows: “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” from St. Matthew's Passion, BWV 244; “Wie soll ich dich empfangen,” from Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248; “Der Leib zwar in der Erden,” from Cantata 'Come, o sweet hour of death,' BWV 161; and “Herzlich tut mich verlangen,” Chorale Prelude, BWV 727.


  • 3 B-Flat Clarinets
  • Bass Clarinet

Optional Instrumentation:

  • E-Flat Clarinet (doubles Clarinet 1, also with obbligato in third movement)
  • Alto Clarinet/Basset Horn for Clarinet 3
  • Contrabass Clarinet/Contralto/String Bass
  • Flute (obbligato in third movement)