Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78

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Jesu, der du meine Seele
BWV 78
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Johann Rist, the author of the hymn
Occasion14th Sunday after Trinity
Chorale"Jesu, der du meine Seele"
by Johann Rist
Performed10 September 1724 (1724-09-10): Leipzig
VocalSATB choir and solo
  • horn
  • flauto traverso
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • violone
  • continuo

Jesu, der du meine Seele (Jesus, who hast wrested my soul),[1] BWV 78 is a church cantata of Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the 14th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 10 September 1724. It is based on the hymn by Johann Rist.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in his second year in Leipzig, when he composed an annual cycle of chorale cantatas. For the 14th Sunday after Trinity, 10 September 1724, he chose the chorale of Johann Rist (1641) in 12 stanzas. Rist set the words and probably also the melody.[2] An unknown librettist wrote the poetry for seven movements, retaining the first and last stanza and quoting some of the original lines as part of his own writing in the other movements. Movement 2 corresponds to stanza 2 of the chorale, 6 to 11, 3 to 3–5, 4 to 6–7, and 5 to 8–10.[3]

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul's teaching on "works of the flesh" and "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16–24), and from the Gospel of Luke, Cleansing ten lepers (Luke 17:11–19).[3] The chorale seems only distantly related, dealing with the Passion of Jesus, which cleanses the believer. The poet refers to sickness and healing in a few lines, more than the chorale does, such as "Du suchst die Kranken" (you search for the sick).[3]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in seven movements is scored for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of flauto traverso, two oboes, two violins, viola, violone and basso continuo including organ and horn in the opening chorus.

  1. Chorale: Jesu, der du meine Seele
  2. Duet aria (soprano, alto): Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten
  3. Recitative (tenor): Ach! ich bin ein Kind der Sünden
  4. Aria (tenor, flute): Das Blut, so meine Schuld durchstreicht
  5. Recitative (bass, strings): Die Wunden, Nägel, Kron und Grab
  6. Aria (bass, oboe): Nur du wirst mein Gewissen stillen
  7. Chorale: Herr, ich glaube, hilf mir Schwachen


The cantata is remarkable for its widely contrasting affects: meditative profundity in the opening chorus, nearly joyful though hesitant bouncing in the second movement, and despair in the third.[4]

The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia in the form of a passacaglia. The theme, known as passus duriusculus or chromatic fourth, appears 27 times, sometimes reversed, sometimes in different keys. In the opening pages it appears twice in the bass(bars 1–9), then at the top of the texture played by the first oboe at bar 9. It appears in inverted form sung by the choir altos at bar 25 and, a bar later, by the tenors.[5] This passacaglia bass was already in use before Bach. He had used it first in movement 5 of his early cantata for Easter Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4, and notably in Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, which was a model for the Crucifixus of his Mass in B minor.

The movement falls into sections, each one of which builds up to the entrance of the choir sopranos, who sing each successive line of the hymn as a cantus firmus. The other instrumental and vocal parts express the meaning of the words in polyphony using a variety of motifs, constructed following the doctrine of the affections, which stated that specific emotions could be aroused by appropriate musical gestures.[6]

The duet for soprano and alto speaks of rushing steps, shown predominantly in the figures of the continuo of celli, violone and organ.

The tenor recitative begins secco, but ends in an arioso on words of the original chorale. The aria is accompanied by flute motifs to express the relief of the heart.

The recitative for bass with strings is reminiscent of the vox Christi (voice of Christ) in Bach's Passions, marked with unusual precision: vivace, adagio, andante, con ardore. Bach achieves a dramatic impact, intensified by leaps in the vocal line. The last aria is similar to a concerto for oboe and the bass voice.

The closing chorale sets the original tune in four parts.[3]



  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 78 – "Jesu, der du meine Seele"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  2. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works Jesu, der du meine Seele". Bach Cantatas Website. 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). Vol. 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 433–436. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  4. ^ Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele". University of Alberta. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  5. ^ Bach, J. S. (2015). Hofman, Rutger (ed.). Jesu der du meine Seele (PDF). Rutger Hofman. pp. 3–5.
  6. ^ Dissmore, Joshua L. (2017). Baroque Music and the Doctrine of Affections: Putting the Affections into Effect. Cedarville University. p. 5.


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