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Jesu, meine Freude

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"Jesu, meine Freude"
Hymn by Johann Crüger
Johann Crüger.jpg
Crüger, composer of the melody
English Jesus, Priceless Treasure
Text by Johann Franck
Language German
Published 1653 (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.

The hymn is the base for Johann Sebastian Bach's funeral motet, BWV 227, and his chorale prelude, BWV 610, among many setting by other composers. In the current German Protestant hymnal, Evangelisches Gesangbuch, it is No. 293.[2]

The hymn was translated to English in several versions, including "Jesu, priceless treasure" by Catherine Winkworth in 1869,[3] and has appeared in 40 hymnals.[4]


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[4] 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.[5] It is a parody of the love song "Flora, meine Freude", published in 1645 by Heinrich Albert, organist at the Königsberg Cathedral.[6]

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.).[5]

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.[5]

The last stanza imagines the entry of Jesus as the "Freudenmeister" (master of joys), as a comforter in every misery.[5] It alludes to Jesus entering after the resurrection (Luke 24:36).[6]

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.[5]

Tune and settings[edit]

The 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.[2]

Bach wrote a chorale prelude, BWV 610, part of his Orgelbüchlein. Other Baroque composers writing chorale preludes on the tune have included Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, Johann Gottfried Walther and George Frederic Handel (HWV 480).[2] David Pohle set it for four voices, three instruments and continuo.

The hymn is best known as a base for Bach's funeral motet of the same name, BWV 227, for five vocal parts, two sopranos (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B), in which he alternates the stanzas of the chorale and text from Paul's epistle to the Romans. In a symmetrical structure, he treats the hymn stanzas differently. Stanzas 1 and 6 are a simple four part setting, stanzas 2 and 4 settings with the melody in the soprano and expressive movement in the lower four or three voices, stanza 5 a chorale fantasia with the melody as cantus firmus in the alto, and stanza three a free composition without connection to the tune.[5]

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.[2] 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.[2]

Chorale preludes were composed later by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, Johann Gottfried Müthel, Max Reger (Op. 76/21, 1902), Sigfrid Karg-Elert (Op. 87, No. 2), Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling (1927), Karl Höller (Op. 22, 1936), Joseph Ahrens (1942) and Max Drischner (1945).[2]

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. ^ a b c d e f "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Jesu, meine Freude". 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Jesu, meine Freude". Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  5. ^ 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.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 78 (help)
  6. ^ a b Storz, Harald (2006). "Predigt über "Jesu, meine Freude"" (in German). Retrieved 12 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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