Bach's motet, Jesu Meine Freude, BWV 227, is arguably one of the finest pieces of choral writing the world has ever known. Putting aside its obvious musical merit, the tremendous care with which the text is treated, from both the Johann Crueger hymn and Romans 8, make it a true gem of Christian music.
These four chorales are all settings of Crueger's hymn tune. They appear spaced throughout the motet, and so may be placed in their proper place in the larger work like building blocks, performed as a set of four, or perhaps just three would be performed if time is short. All four appear in the collection of chorales put together by C. P. E. Bach that have become known as the 371 chorales. The original motet was written and first performed in St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, in the early 18th century.
The words used here are an English transliteration. I do not call it a translation, as a literal translation would not have a reasonable syllable count and could not possibly convey the meaning in a muscially expressive way, as compared to these lyrics. This particlar set of lyrics is completely unmodernized from the oldest English translation of which I am aware, probably by Catherine Winkworth in 1863 (the original German text appears to have been penned by J. Franck in 1655). It is as it appears in several hymnals of about a century ago, except for retaining the German name Jesu in a few phrases and some other very minor adjustments.
Since this is an English-language publisher, purists could kindly consider granting forgiveness for not publishing this in the original German, or for failing to at least publish a dual-language edition. This publisher believes strongly that English-language choirs need to sing this in English in order to fully express the message conveyed by both words and music, so the original German has been omitted. There is a faithful German edition available elsewhere on the internet for the purists. But if this work comes to be performed only in German, for someone to whom German is mere gibberish a great expression of Christian faith is reduced to mere "great music." What a tragedy it would be for anyone to miss the tremendous spiritual dimension of this work! This is the rationale for this English-language edition.
It is hoped that this work can be appreciated for its tremendous musical and spiritual depth, and we are pleased to offer up this collection.
A minor warning is in order. Three of the four chorales, including the most difficult one, are SATB, but one is SSATB. Please do not let that be a stumbling block as it is perhaps the most meaningful and beautiful of the four. It is worth the extra effort to rehearse five parts.
+ + + (No. I)
Jesu, priceless treasure, Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me.
Ah, how long I've panted, and my heart hath fainted,
Thirsting, Lord, for Thee.
Thine I am, oh spotless Lamb!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee, Naught I ask beside Thee.
+ + + (No. III)
In Thine arm I rest me, Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking, Ev'ry heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fears.
Fires may flash and thunders crash,
Yea, and sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.
+ + + (No. VII)
Hence with earthly treasure! Thou art all my pleasure,
Jesus, all my choice.
Hence, thou empty glory! Naught to me thy story
Told with tempting voice.
Pain, or loss, or shame, or cross,
Shall not from my Savior move me,
Since He deigns to love me.
+ + + (No. XI)
Hence all fear and sadness, For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
They who love the Father, Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate'er I here must bear, Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesu, priceless treasure.
+ + +
To hear a choir singing one of these chorales, visit this page and listen all the way to the end of the MP3.
MP3 sound sample: Entire piece
FOUR CHORALES FROM BWV 227 by J. S. Bach, a collection for SATB (and SSATB) choir, a cappella, comes in a PDF file of 1408K that contains fourteen pages of complete score and license page, fifteen pages in all. If all four chorales are performed sequentially, performance time should be around 4:00, maybe a little more.
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Last update: 3 February 2020