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Jesu, meine Freude BWV227
 Composed by Bach, Johann Sebastian
 Work Notes
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Johann Sebastian Bach - Jesu, meine Freude BWV227

JS Bach moved to Leipzig in May 1723 to take up his appointment as Cantor of St Thomas's. Among the vast amount of choral music he composed there, six motets survive, most composed during the late 1720s. They were originally written for specific occasions: four owe their origin to funeral or memorial services, while Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied may have celebrated the birthday of the Elector of Saxony in 1727. Their technical demands exceed almost everything else he wrote for choir: We can only assume that Bach was able to draw on a talented group of choristers for their performance. For all but one of these works, Bach chose biblical and chorale texts, the exception Komm Jesu komm! borrows poetry from the Thymisch songbook.

Bach's characteristic concern for integrating his compositions is exemplified by Jesu meine Freude. His regulating of tempo, metre, tonality and texture throughout this eleven-movement motet, combined with his imaginative derivation and development of themes, ensures both continuity and variety as the work proceeds. Odd-numbered movements – based on Johann Feranck's text on 1653 – restate or paraphrase the chorale in various ways; there is even an extended cantus firmus setting. These chorale items alternate with movements – based on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – which are freer in style and structure, ranging from menuet and siciliano trios to five-part fugues. The sequence is balanced symmetrically around the central fugue, in some respects as a palindrome. Significantly, the work concludes with a restatement of the opening chorale setting whose initial and final phrases themselves share the same text, melody and harmonic progression.

Christopher Allsop

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