Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227

Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227, is a motet composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. The work, which takes its title from the hymn "Jesu, meine Freude" by Johann Franck on which it is based, is also known as Motet No. 3 in E minor. The stanzas of the chorale are interspersed with passages from the Epistle to the Romans.

The work

There are six authenticated Bach motets (BWV 225–230), BWV 228 appears to have been written at Weimar and the other five for St Thomas's Church, Leipzig, between 1723 and 1727. A seventh has only recently been subjected to some scholarly doubt as to its authorship. Jesu, meine Freude was written in 1723, Bach's first year in Leipzig, for the funeral (on 18 July 1723) of Johanna Maria Käsin, the wife of that city's postmaster. Although numbered as the third of the set, it is probably the second in order of composition, as it is the earliest of the ones written at Leipzig. It is also the longest and most musically complex of the set.[1] The 5th voice of the chorus is a second soprano part of harmonic richness. Bach split the soprano line relatively rarely, but he also did so in the Magnificat in E-flat major, premiered the same year.[2]

The chorale melody on which it is based was by Johann Crüger (1653), and it first appeared in his Praxis pietatis melica. The German text is by Johann Franck, and dates from c. 1650. The words of the movement nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 are based on the Epistle to the Romans 8:1–2, 9–11. The scriptures here speak of Jesus Christ freeing man from sin and death. The chorale text is from the believer's point of view and praises the gifts of Jesus Christ as well as longing for his comforting spirit. Bruce Tammen describes the chorale and biblical text as abounding in stark contrasts between images of heaven and hell, often within a single section. Bach's vivid setting of the words heightens these dramatic contrasts resulting in a motet with an uncommonly wide dramatic range.[1]


  1. Jesu, meine Freude (1st stanza)
  2. Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches (based on Romans 8:1)
  3. Unter deinem Schirmen (2nd stanza)
  4. Denn das Gesetz (à 3, based on Romans 8:2)
  5. Trotz dem alten Drachen (3rd stanza)
  6. Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich (fugue, based on Romans 8:9)
  7. Weg mit allen Schätzen (4th stanza)
  8. So aber Christus in euch ist (à 3, based on Romans 8:10)
  9. Gute Nacht, o Wesen (à 4, 5th stanza)
  10. So nun der Geist (based on Romans 8:11)
  11. Weicht, ihr Trauergeister (6th stanza)

A brief guide to the eleven movements follows:

  1. Chorale setting, four-part
  2. Five-part dramatic chorus, florid variations on the chorale, in the manner of an instrumental ripieno
  3. Chorale, with flourishes
  4. Setting in the manner of a trio sonata (soprano, soprano, alto).
  5. Five-part dramatic chorus, florid variations on the chorale, in the manner of an instrumental ripieno.
  6. Five-part double fugue
  7. Chorale, with florid variations.
  8. Setting in the manner of a trio sonata (alto, tenor, bass)
  9. Chorale prelude (soprano, soprano, alto, tenor. The cantus firmus is in the alto).
  10. Five-part dramatic chorus (repeats much of #2 with different text)
  11. Chorale setting (repeats #1 with different text)

Analysis reveals an arch-like structure, a balanced musical symmetry around the 6th movement double fugue. Sections #3–5 and #7–9 both contain a chorale, a trio and a quasi-aria movement. The work begins and ends with the identical chorale, albeit to different words.

This can be expressed as a diagram:

Chorale Setting of Scripture
Quasi-aria Free Chorale
Double Fugue
Quasi-aria Free Chorale
Setting of Scripture Chorale

See also


  1. 1 2 "Jesu, meine Freude". Chicago Chorale. 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  2. Otherwise, he used five voices in the Missa in B minor, composed in 1733 for the court of Dresden, from which he derived the derived cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191, and in the Mass in B minor. Richard D. P. Jones notes: "Without exception these works lie outside the normal routine of Bach's sacred vocal works". (Jones, Richard D. P. (2013). The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717–1750: Music to Delight the Spirit. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-969628-4.)

External links

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