Fürchte dich nicht (Do not fear),BWV 228,[a] is a motet for a funeral by Johann Sebastian Bach, set for double chorus. The work in two movements draws its text from the Book of Isaiah and a hymn by Paul Gerhardt. Scholars disagree about the composition time and place which was traditionally believed to be 1726 in Leipzig, while more recent scholarship suggests for stylistic reasons that it was already composed during Bach's Weimar period.
Bach composed the work for a funeral. His motets were written in the tradition of the Evangelienmotetten (motets on gospel text) of the 17th century by composers such as Melchior Franck, Melchior Vulpius and Heinrich Schütz. When he composed his motets, works without contemporary poetry and without an independent orchestra, the genre was already out of fashion. However, there was evidently a demand for such works at funerals, a ceremony for which at least some of Bach's other motets were written.[b]
As the original score has not survived, the work can not be dated with certainty. Traditionally, scholars believed that Bach composed Fürchte dich nicht for a funeral in Leipzig in 1726. Stylistic comparison with other works such as Ich lasse dich nicht, BWV Anh. 159, suggests that Bach wrote it already in his Weimar period (1708–1717).
The first verse by Isaiah is the text for the first movement. In the second movement, the second verse by Isaiah is set as a fugue of the three lower voices, and juxtaposed to the chorale by Gerhardt, sung by the soprano. The lower voices are set in a double fugue, with the subject derived from the beginning of the chorale melody, and the counter subject an inversion. The chromatic theme is reminiscent of the final aria of Bach’s cantata for solo alto Widerstehe doch der Sünde, BWV 54. At one point there is also a strong textual correspondence of biblical quotation and hymn. The conductor John Eliot Gardiner points out that "the biblical 'Ich habe dich bei deinem Namen gerufen' (I have called thee by thy name) leads climactically to the hymn-line 'Ich bin dein, weil du dein Leben ... [gegeben]' (I am thine, for thou hast given thy life). The movement ends with a recapitulation of the music from movement 1 for double choir on the final line of the second psalm verse.