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Jesu, meine Freude

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"Jesu, meine Freude"
Hymn by Johann Crüger
Jesu Meine Freude Praxis Cruger 1653.jpeg
The hymn in Johann Crüger's Praxis pietatis melica, 1653
EnglishJesus, Priceless Treasure
Textby Johann Franck
Published1653 (1653)

"Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus, my joy) is a hymn in German, written by Johann Franck in 1650,[1] with a melody by Johann Crüger. The song first appeared in Crüger's hymnal Praxis pietatis melica in 1653. The text addresses Jesus as joy and support, versus enemies and the vanity of existence. The poetry is bar form, with irregular lines from 5 to 8 syllables. The melody repeats the first line in the last, framing each of the six stanzas.

There have been choral and organ settings of the hymn by many composers, most notably by Johann Sebastian Bach in his funeral motet, BWV 227, for unaccompanied chorus and in his chorale prelude, BWV 610, for organ. In the current German Protestant hymnal, Evangelisches Gesangbuch, it is No. 396.

Several English translations have been made of the hymn, including Catherine Winkworth's "Jesu, priceless treasure" of 1869,[2] and it has appeared in around 40 hymnals.[3]


The text is presented in six stanzas of nine lines each. It is in bar form, three lines form the Stollen, three the Abgesang, with the meter[3] The last line of the last stanza repeats the first line of the first stanza. The song is written in the first person, addressing Jesus.

  1. Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my joy)
  2. Unter deinem Schirmen (Beneath your protection)
  3. Trotz dem alten Drachen (I defy the old dragon)
  4. Weg mit allen Schätzen (Away with all treasures)
  5. Gute Nacht, o Wesen (Good night, existence)
  6. Weicht, ihr Trauergeister (Go away, mournful spirits)[1]

The first stanza sets the theme of love to Jesus and the desire to be united with him, who is named Lamb, as in Revelation 5:6, and Bridegroom, based on Revelation 22:17.[4] It is a parody of the love song "Flora, meine Freude", published in 1645 by Heinrich Albert, organist at the Königsberg Cathedral.[5]

The second stanza describes the protection of Jesus against threats by Satan, enemies, thunder, hell and sin, all pictured in drastic images. The third stanza repeats three times Trotz (defiance), facing the enemies "old dragon" (alter Drachen), death (Tod), and fear (Furcht). The believer, feeling safe even in adverse conditions as expressed in Psalms 23:4, stands singing (Ich steh hier und singe.).[4]

The fourth stanza turns away from worldly treasures and honours, which should not separate the believer from Jesus. The fifth stanza repeats four times "Good night", to existence in the world, to sins, to pride and pomp, and to a vice life.[4]

The last stanza imagines the entry of Jesus as the "Freudenmeister" (master of joys), as a comforter in every misery.[4] It alludes to Jesus entering after the resurrection (Luke 24:36).[5]

The theme of turning away from the world to Jesus made the hymn suitable for funerals, seen as the ultimate turning away from the world.[4]

Hymn tune and settings[edit]

The tablature score of Buxtehude's cantata BuxWV 60

The hymn tune in E minor follows the structure of the bar form. It culminates in the long phrase of line 8 and repeats line 1 in line 9, framing the stanza.[6]

One of the earliest choral settings is the cantata BuxWV 60 of Dieterich Buxtehude composed in the 1680s.

Bach set the hymn for organ in BWV 610, one of the chorale preludes in his Orgelbüchlein. Other Baroque composers who have composed chorale preludes on the hymn tune include Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, Johann Gottfried Walther and George Frederic Handel (HWV 480).[6] David Pohle set it for four voices, three instruments and continuo.

The hymn is probably best known as the basis for Bach's funeral motet of the same name, BWV 227. Scored for five vocal parts—two sopranos (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B)—Bach alternates the stanzas of the chorale and text from Paul's epistle to the Romans. Within an overall symmetrical structure, he varies his treatment of the verses of the hymn: stanzas 1 and 6 are the same simple four part setting; stanzas 2 and 4 are settings with the cantus firmus in the soprano and an expressive accompaniment in the lower three or four voices; stanza 5 is a chorale fantasia with the cantus firmus in the alto; and stanza 3 is freely composed with no connection to the hymn tune.[4]

1 chorale SATB Epistle
2 chorale SSATB
3 free chorale
double fugue SSATB
4 chorale SATB
5 chorale fantasia SSAT
6 chorale (same as 1)
Beginning of movement 1 of Bach's motet

Bach used the tune as a cantus firmus, played by a trumpet, in an aria of his cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (1714). He closed his 1723 Christmas cantata Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, BWV 64, with the fifth stanza, and his 1724 cantata Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen? BWV 81, with the second stanza.[6] The closing chorale of cantata Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen, BWV 87, (1725) is a stanza from a hymn by Heinrich Müller on the same tune.[6]

Chorale preludes were composed later by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg and Johann Gottfried Müthel. Max Reger composed a prelude as No. 21 of his 52 Chorale Preludes, Op. 67 in 1902. Preludes were also written by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (Op. 87, No. 2), Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1927), Karl Höller (Op. 22, 1936), Joseph Ahrens (1942) and Max Drischner (1945).[6]

Günther Marks composed in 1970 a partita for viola and organ on the tune.[7] Gerhard Präsent arranged in 2005 Bach's chorale prelude for string quartet, in Three Choral Preludes and Aria by Johann Sebastian Bach, completed and arranged for string quartet, also in a version for string trio.[8] Steven Sametz composed in 2009 a Fantasia on "Jesu, meine Freude" for SATB choir and digitally delayed treble instrument.[9]


  1. ^ a b Browne, Francis (2006). "Jesu, meine Freude / Text and Translation of Chorale". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Thönnes, Dietmar (2012). "Theologisch-musikalische Interpretation der Kantate "Jesu, meine Freude" von Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 227)" (PDF) (in German). Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b Storz, Harald (2006). "Predigt über "Jesu, meine Freude"" (in German). Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Jesu, meine Freude". 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Günther Marks / Jesu, thou my pleasure / Jesu, meine Freude". Carus-Verlag. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Gerhad Präsent Werke/Details". ALEA Ensemble. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Fantasia on "Jesu, meine Freude"". Steven Sametz. 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2014.

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