Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227
Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227, is a motet composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is also known as Motet No. 3 in E minor. The work takes its title from the hymn "Jesu, meine Freude", with its chorale melody by Johann Crüger. Movements based on the hymn are interspersed with others based on passages from the Epistle to the Romans. Bach's choral writing is in five parts, as only few other compositions.
Jesu, meine Freude is one of six works which comprise the generally accepted and most often recorded Bach motet canon (BWV 225–230). These have traditionally been assumed to be written for St Thomas's Church, Leipzig, between 1723 and 1727. For stylistic reasons, one of them, Fürchte dich nicht appears to belong to an earlier stage of Bach's career. If so, Jesu, meine Freude, the "third" in the set, may have been the second to have been composed. There is a hypothesis that it was written for the funeral (on 18 July 1723) of Johanna Maria Käsin, the wife of the Leipzig postmaster. While the words are suitable for a funeral, and from a stylistic point of view the music is generally compatible with a date in the 1720s, recent scholarship suggests that the documentary evidence linking the piece to the funeral in 1723 is not conclusive.
It is the longest and most musically complex of the six. It is set for five voices, SSATB, as only few of his compositions, such as the Magnificat in 1723 and the Missa for the Dresden court in 1733. The second soprano part adds to harmonic richness.
The German hymn text is by Johann Franck, and dates from c. 1650. It is from an individual 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. The chorale melody was composed by Johann Crüger (1653), and it first appeared in his hymnal Praxis pietatis melica. The six hymn stanzas form the uneven movement numbers, while the words of the even numbers from two to ten taken from the Epistle to the Romans 8:1–2, 9–11. The scriptures here speak of Jesus Christ freeing man from sin and death. 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)
There has been speculation, for example by Daniel Melamed, that the piece incorporates music composed at different times. Whether this is true or not, commentators usually point to a clearly defined structure. 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|
Score and publication
The autograph score has not survived. Parts survive from the 1730s. Like most of Bach's output, the music was not published in the composer's lifetime. It first appeared in the early nineteenth century in an edition by Johann Gottfried Schicht.
- Dubins, Jerry. "Singet dem Herr nein neues Lied. Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf. Jesu, meine Freude. Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir. Komm, Jesu, komm. Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden. Ich lasse Dich nicht, du segnest mich denn." Modern Brewery Age. 2007. Accessed via HighBeam Research March 4, 2017 (subscription required). https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1339635081.html
- Gardiner, John Eliot (2012). "Bach Motets" (PDF). monteverdi.org.uk. pp. 6,10–11. Retrieved 28 February 2017.