Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf BWV226

Thomasschule Leipzig - Mendlessohn sketch[5]

This motet Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf BWV 226 is the only one of Bach’s motets that can definitively be assigned to a particular occasion. Bach composed it for the funeral of J H Ernesti, Rector of St Thomas’s School, whose funeral took place on October 24th 1729. Structurally it’s similar to Komm, Jesu, komm! in that it’s divided into two movements the first of which –  a setting of Romans 8: 26-27, is subdivided into three contrasting sections which are marked by changes of tempo.

The second section is a setting of the third verse of Luther’s chorale Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott. It’s a surprisingly modern piece from somebody who was such a profoundly conservative composer. For example, the first section of the first movement in the style of a polychoral motet but it uses a 3/8 metre and its main theme returns in fragments rather like a concerto ritornello theme would. It features some beautiful harmonisations and I love how as the sense of the text becomes more and more confident that the two choirs become ever less independent until in the final fugue Bach dispenses with the idea of a double choir altogether and unites the two in a solid statement of faith.

It’s sung below by the Thomanerchor Leipzig conducted by Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller. Enjoy :-).


How to use the playlist: The playlist consists of 3 recordings. The complete motet and separate recordings of each of its movements. Click which you want to hear and enjoy — mfi.

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Text: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf BWV226

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Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,

denn wir wissen nicht, was wir beten sollen,

wie sich’s gebühret; sondern der Geist selbst vertritt uns aufs beste mil unaussprechlichem Seufzen.

Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiss,

was des Geistes Sinn sei; denn er vertritt

die Heiligen nach dem, das Gott gefället.

Romans 8: 26-27

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us

with groanings which cannot be uttered.

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth

what is the mind of the Spirit, for he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God

Du heilige Brunst, süsser Trost,

nun hilf uns fröhlich und getrost

in deinem Dienst beständig bleiben,

die Trübsal uns nicht abtreiben.

O Hen, durch dein Kraft uns bereit

und stärk des Fleisches Blödigkeit,

dass wir hier ritterlich ringen,

durch Tod und Leben zu dir dringen. Alleluja.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Heavenly fire, sweet consolation,

help us now, so that joyfully and confidently

we may faithfully serve thee

and not be deflected by sadness.

Oh Lord, prepare us through thy power

and strengthen the reluctant flesh,

so that we shall fight valiantly

and pass through death and life to thee. Alleluia.

Series Navigation<< Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied BWV 225Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Fürchte dich nicht BWV 228 >>

2 thoughts on “Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf BWV226

  1. Thankyou so much for your work. It is wonderful to find such a wealth of information coupled with fine examples of performances.

    It is hard to express enough appreciation!

    Alberta, Canada

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