The two movement eight-part motet "Fürchte dich nicht BWV 228" (Fear Not) for double chorus (SATB+SATB) is perhaps the earliest composed by Bach. Some writers say that it dates from Bach’s time in Leipzig, that he composed it in 1726 for the funeral service of the wife of a Leipzig official, Stadthauptniann Winkler, on 4 February 1726. I’m far from convinced that this is the case. First because they adduce no real evidence in support of their contention and secondly because the stylistic resemblances between "Fürchte dich nicht BWV 228" and "Ich lasse dich nicht" (BWV Anh. 159)" are so very pronounced. Moreover it’s closely related in style to the motets composed by the earlier members of his family to the extent that it has exactly the same formal scheme as Johann Michael Bach’s (1648–94) eight part setting of "Fürchtet euch nicht" a work with which Johann Sebastian would have been thoroughly familiar from his work assembling the archive of his family’s compositions.
For Fürchte dich nicht’s text Bach used Isaiah 41:10 and 43:1, as well as two verses from Paul Gerhardt’s chorale "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen" which Bach uses in the fugue. (Bach also used this chorale tune in BWV 248/33 (Christmas Oratorio)(PDF), and harmonised it in BWV 422 (PDF)). The motet is in two movements the first of which is a polychoral setting of Isaiah 41, verse 10 in which the choirs respond to each other and combine in block chords. Half way through the work the text changes to Isaiah 43, verse 1, a three part chromatic fugue sung by the combined lower voices of the two choirs. This fugue supports two verses of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn "Warum sollt ich mich denn grimen", which we hear as the cantus firmus sung by combined sopranos. It’s sung below by the Thomanerchor Leipzig, conducted by Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller. Enjoy :-)
Text: Fürchte dich nicht BWV228
| Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir; |
weiche nicht, denn ich bin dein Gott!
Ich stärke dich, ich helfe dir auch, ich erhalte dich durch
die rechte Hand meiner Gerechtigkeit.
Fürchte dich nicht, denn ich habe dich erlöset,
ich habe dich bei deinem Namen gerufen, du bist mein. Herr, mein Hirt, Brunn aller Freuden,
du bist mein, ich bin dein,
niemand kann uns scheiden.
Ich bin dein, weil du dein Leben
und dein Blut mir zugut in den Tod gegeben.
Du bist mein, weil ich dich fasse
und dich nicht, O mein Licht,
aus dem Herzen lasse.
Lass mich hingelangen,
da du mich und ich dich lieblich werd umfangen. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)
| Fear not, for I am with thee; |
be not dismayed, for I am thy God.
I will strengthen thee, yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee
with the right hand of my righteousness.
Fear not, for I have redeemed thee;
I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Lord my shepherd, source of all joys!
Thou art mine, I am thine;
none can part us.
I am thine, because thou gavest me thy life
and thy blood for my sake, and embraced death.
Thou art mine, because I hold thee
and will never let thee, oh my light,
leave my heart.
Let me reach the place
where I shall embrace thee and thou me in all eternity.