Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Jesu, meine Freude BWV227

bach signature Bach’s longest and most complex motet, Jesu, meine Freude BWV 227 is probably the earliest of his motets, he may have written it for Johanna Maria Kees’ funeral service which took place on 18 July 1723 (she was the Leipzig postmaster’s wife). It’s an unusual and impressive motet in several respects not the least of which is its almost palindromic textual structure.

Bach took Johann Crüger’s popular chorale which was first published in 1653 and interspersed his settings of words from Romans 8, verses 1, 2, 9, 10 and 11  between the six verses of Johann Franck’s text. The resulting symetrical structure is both pleasing and intricate and allowed Bach to explore all the possibilities of the chorale tune. His exploration over eleven movements can be divided into three types:

  1. Settings of the chorale tune and text. (1,3,7,11).
  2. Free settings of the chorale text (5 and 9).
  3. Settings of the added text (2, 4, 6, 8 and 10)

All of which as can be seen in the graphic  fron Wikipedia below Bach groups around the central fugue  (6th movement)  thus:

bwv 227 wikipedia screen shot

Movement Number 1: Jesu, meine Freude (1st stanza)Movement Number 11: Num Weicht, ihr Trauergeister (6th stanza) – same music.
Movement Number 2: Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches (based on Romans 8:1,4)Movement Number 10: So nun der Geist (based on Romans 8:11) – material in common.
Movement Number 3 – chorale: Unter deinem Schirmen (2nd stanza) – Both are chorales.Movement Number 7 – Chorale: Weg mit allen Schätzen (4th stanza)– Both are chorales.
Movement Number 4 – Trio: Denn das Gesetz (à 3, based on Romans 8:2) – Both are trios this is a trio for high voices.Movement Number 8 – Trio: So aber Christus in euch ist (based on Romans 8:10) – Both are trios this trio for low voices mirrors the trio in movement 4 .
Movement Number 5 – free aria like movement: Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich (fugue, based on Romans 8:9) – Both are free aria like movements.Movement Number 9 – free aria like movement: Gute Nacht, o Wesen (à 4, 5th stanza) – Both are free aria like movements.

The idea behind all of this is to express the transformative power of Christ’s love, thus to give just one example in the second movement the text speaks of those who are ‘in Christ’:

Es ist nun nichts Verdamliches an denen, die in Christo Jesu sind, (There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,)

In its cognate movement this is transformed by the transformative power of Christ’s love into the spirit of Christ dwelling ‘in you’.

dass sein Geist in euch wohnet (by his Spirit that dwelleth in you).

All of this requires singers who can sing the music and its exquisite portrayal of the text with tenderness and lyricism fortunately as you can hear below the Thomanerchor Leipzig conducted by Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller accomplish this task with distinction. I’ve put both the complete work and its constituent movements into a clickable playlist below so that you can either listen to the whole thing or explore its various movements. You’ll the text and an English translation below the playlist. Enjoy :-).


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Text: Jesu, meine Freude BWV227

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Movement 01: Jesu, meine Freude

Jesu, meine Freude, meines Herzens Weide, Jesu, meine Zier,

ach wie lang, ach lange ist dem Herzen bange

und verlangt nach dir!

Gottes Lamm, mein Bräutigam,

ausser dir soll mir auf Erden nichts sonst Liebers werden.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Jesu, my joy, my heart’s repose,

Jesu, my treasure,

oh, how ceaselessly my fainting heart

longs for thee!

Lamb of God, my bridegroom,

no one on earth is dearer to me.

Movement 02 :   Es ist nun nichts Verdamliches an denen

Es ist nun nichts Verdamliches an denen, die in Christo

Jesu sind, die nicht nach dem Fleische wandeln,

sondern nach dem Geist.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are

in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh,

but after the Spirit.

Movement 03: Unter deinem Schirmen bin ich vor den Stürmen

Unter deinem Schirmen bin ich vor den Stürmen

aller Feinde frei.

Lass den Satan wittern, lass den Feind erbittern,

mir steht Jesus bei.

Ob es itzt gleich kracht und blitzt,

ob gleich Sünd und Hölle schrecken: Jesus will mich decken.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Protected by thee, I am free from

the raging of all enemies.

Let Satan thunder, let the fiend threaten,

Jesus is my aid.

Even though thunder and lightning rage,

even though sin and hell terrify me; Jesus will protect me.

Movement 04: Denn das Gesetz des Geistes

Denn das Gesetz des Geistes, der da lebendig machet

in Christo Jesu, hat mich frei gemacht von

dem Gesetz der Sünde und des Todes.

For the law of the Spirit of life

in Christ Jesus hath made me free

from the law of sin and death.

Movement 05: Trotz dem alten Drachen

Trotz dem alten Drachen, trotz des Todes Rachen,

trotz der Furcht dazu!

Tobe, Welt, und springe, ich steh’ hier und singe,

in gar sichrer Ruh.

Gottes Macht hält mich in acht;

Erd’ und Abgrund muss verstummen, ob sie noch so brummen.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Defy the old dragon, defy the jaws of death,

defy fear as well!

Rage, oh world, and quake, here I stand, singing

in perfect peace!

The might of God protects me;

earth and abyss shall be silent, however much they roar.

Movement 06: Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich

Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich, sondern geistlich,

so anders Gottes Geist in euch wohnet. Wer aber Christi Geist

nicht hat, der ist nicht sein.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,

if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have

not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Movement 07: Weg mit allen Schätzen!

Weg mit allen Schätzen! Du bist mein Ergötzen,

Jesu, meine Lust!

Weg ihr eitlen Ehren, ich mag euch nicht hören,

bleibt mir unbewusst!

Elend, Not, Kreuz, Schmach und Tod

soll mich, ob ich viel muss leiden, nicht von Jesu scheiden.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Away with all earthly treasure, thou art my delight,

Jesu, my joy!

Away, vainglories, I will not listen to you,

I want none of you!

Grief, distress, cross, shame and death,

however much I suffer, shall not part me from Jesus.

Movement 08: So aber Christus in euch ist

So aber Christus in euch ist,

so ist der Leib zwar tot um der Sünder willen;

der Geist aber ist das Leben um der Gerechtigkeit willen.

And if Christ be in you,

the body is dead because of sin;

but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Movement 09: Gute Nacht, o Wesen

Gute Nacht, o Wesen, das die Welt erlesen,

mir gefällst du nicht.

Gute Nacht, ihr Sünden, bleibet weit dahinten,

komm nicht mehr ans Licht!

Gute Nacht, du Stolz und Pracht!

Dir sei ganz, du Lasterleben, gute Nacht gegeben.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Goodnight, oh being, which has chosen the world,

you do not please me!

Goodnight, sins, stay far behind me,

do not rise into the light!

Goodnight, pride and vain glory!

And to you, life of iniquity, a special goodnight!

Movement 10: So nun der Geist

So nun der Geist des, der Jesum von dem Toten

auferwecket hat, in euch wohnet, so wird auch derselbige,

der Christum von den Toten auferwecket hat,

eure sterbliche Leiber lebendig machen um des willen,

dass sein Geist in euch wohnet.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus

from the dead dwell in you, he that

raised up Christ from the dead

shall also quicken your mortal bodies

by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Movement 11: Weicht, ihr Trauergeister

Weicht, ihr Trauergeister, denn mein Freudenmeister,

Jesus, tritt herein.

Denen, die Gott lieben, muss auch ihr Betrüben

lauter Zucker sein.

Duld ich schon hier Spott und Hohn,

dennoch bleibst du auch im Leide, Jesu, meine Freude.

Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Give way, you spirits of sadness, for the King of joy,

Jesus, is entering in.

Those who love God must accept even their sadness

as pure delight.

Though I suffer mockery and derision here,

yet even in my grief shall thou, Jesu, remain my joy.

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 >>

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