Jesu, meine Freude
Jesu, meine Freude is a motet composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. The work, which takes its title from the chorale by Johann Franck on which it is based, is also known as Motet No. 3 in E minor, BWV 227. The stanzas of the chorale are interspersed with passages from the Epistle to the Romans.
There are six authenticated funeral motets (BWV 225–230) written for St Thomas's Church, Leipzig, between 1723 and 1727. A seventh has only recently been subjected to some scholarly doubt as to its authorship. This third is the earliest, longest, most musically complex and justifiably the most popular of the six, and was written in Leipzig in 1723 for the funeral (on 18 July 1723) of Johanna Maria Käsin, the wife of that city’s postmaster. The 5th voice of the chorus is a second soprano part of harmonic richness, adding considerably to the tonal palette of the work as a whole.
The chorale melody on which it is based was by Johann Crüger (1653), and it first appeared in his Praxis Pietatis Melica. The German text is by Johann Franck, and dates from c. 1650. The words of the movement nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are based on the Epistle to the Romans 8:1–2, 9–11. The scriptures here speak of Jesus Christ freeing man from sin and death. The chorale text is from the believer's point of view and praises the gifts of Jesus Christ as well as longing for his comforting spirit. It also abounds with stark contrasts between images of heaven and hell, often within a single section. Bach's vivid setting of the words heightens these dramatic contrasts resulting in a motet with an uncommonly wide dramatic range.
- Jesu, meine Freude (1st stanza)
- Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches (based on Romans 8:1,4)
- Unter deinem Schirmen (2nd stanza)
- Denn das Gesetz (à 3, based on Romans 8:2)
- Trotz dem alten Drachen (3rd stanza)
- Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich (fugue, based on Romans 8:9)
- Weg mit allen Schätzen (4th stanza)
- So aber Christus in euch ist (à 3, based on Romans 8:10)
- Gute Nacht, o Wesen (à 4, 5th stanza)
- So nun der Geist (based on Romans 8:11)
- Weicht, ihr Trauergeister (6th stanza)
A brief guide to the eleven movements follows:
- Chorale setting, four-part
- Five-part dramatic chorus, florid variations on the chorale, in the manner of an instrumental ripieno
- Chorale, with flourishes
- Setting in the manner of a trio sonata (soprano, soprano, alto).
- Five-part dramatic chorus, florid variations on the chorale, in the manner of an instrumental ripieno.
- Five-part double fugue
- Chorale, with florid variations.
- Setting in the manner of a trio sonata (alto, tenor, bass)
- Chorale prelude (soprano, soprano, alto, tenor. The cantus firmus is in the alto).
- Five-part dramatic chorus (repeats much of #2 with different text)
- Chorale setting (repeats #1 with different text)
An analysis would reveal a balanced musical symmetry around the 6th movement double fugue, with both #3–5 and #7–9 containing a chorale, a trio and a quasi-aria movement, and the work beginning and ending with the identical chorale, albeit to different words.
This can be expressed as a diagram:
|Chorale||Setting of Scripture||
|Setting of Scripture||Chorale|
- English Translation
- Recording of Jesu, meine Freude in MP3 format from Umeå Akademiska Kör
- Jesu, meine Freude: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project