Jesu, meine Freude

Jesu, meine Freude

BWV 227 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Christoph Prégardien
Grote Kerk, Alkmaar

  • Menu
  • Jesu, meine Freude
  • Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches
  • Unter deinem Schirmen
  • Denn das Gesetz
  • Trotz dem alten Drachen
  • Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich
  • Weg mit allen Schätzen!
  • So aber Christus in euch ist
  • Gute Nacht, o Wesen
  • So nun der Geist
  • Weicht, ihr Trauergeister

Behind the music


Struggle for the soul

Bach builds a grand musical mirror from new (and old?) stones

The pleasure felt by modern people listening to a piece like Jesu, meine Freude may conflict with our ideas about death. Yet such a comforting, sometimes positively cheerful piece fitted perfectly in a Lutheran memorial service, which is where this motet would undoubtedly have been sung. But whose funeral it concerns remains a mystery. The identification with Jesus’ suffering and the faith in his redemptive powers was quasi-universal. This made even a heavenward, anti-worldly text like Paul’s heartening words to the Romans an ideal text for a funeral.

Bach lends colour to the biblical quotes by alternating each verse with a verse from a hymn by Johann Franck from 1653. He (or his lyricist) leaves out three biblical verses, probably in order to centre the motet on the wonderful double fugue and its central message ‘Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich’. Around this, there is a nice, mathematically perfect arch of mini motets, chorales and chorale arrangements, in which tuttis alternate with smaller groups.

Speculative, but interestingly, there are indications that Bach reused existing material (now lost), as he did in the Mass in B minor, for example. Particularly the two outer sections appear ‘suspiciously’ four-part in a five-part work, as does ‘Gute Nacht, o Wesen’ with its different chorale melody, and even the central section, which technically seen is a four-part fugue with an extra soprano part. Such recycling was more the rule than the exception and does not detract at all from the quality of the whole, although it does offer an intriguing perspective on Bach’s way of working.

Motets, BWV 225-231, 118 and Anh159
Cantatas were Bach’s daily bread and a regular part of his weekly tasks as Cantor of St Thomas’s. His motets were a different case entirely. Apart from the cantata, hardly any new music was played in Leipzig (music was selected instead from the motet collection Florilegium Portense). This gave Bach scope for writing commissioned works for private occasions, often funerals. Unfortunately, probably dozens of these works have been lost. The pieces that did survive have stayed on the repertoire since their composition, unlike Bach’s other vocal works.

The surviving authentic motets – nine works, although research continues – build on a genre with an impressive pedigree. Against the background of strict Renaissance polyphony, the generation of Schütz (1585-1672) borrowed elements from the opulent, polychoral works of Giovanni Gabrieli and gave them a Central-German, Lutheran twist. In Bach’s case, too, the content focused on chorales and biblical passages, whereby worldly madrigalism (or put simply: portraying the words) served only to reinforce the expression of the religious genre.

Jesu, meine Freude
Bible: excerpts from Romans 8; chorale: Johann Franck (1618-1677)

Extra videos

Vocal texts


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.

Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches
an denen, die in Christo Jesu sind, die
nicht nach dem Fleische wandeln,
sondern nach dem Geist.

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.

Denn das Gesetz des Geistes,
der da lebendig macht in Christo Jesu,
hat mich frei gemacht von dem Gesetz
der Sünde und des Todes.

Trotz dem alten Drachen,
trotz des Todes Rachen,
trotz der Furcht darzu!
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.

Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich,
sondern geistlich,
so anders Gottes Geist in euch wohnet.
Wer aber Christi Geist nicht hat,
der ist nicht sein.

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.

So aber Christus in euch ist,
so ist der Leib zwar tot um der Sünde
willen; der Geist aber ist das Leben
um der Gerechtigkeit willen.

Gute Nacht, o Wesen,
das die Welt erlesen,
mir gefällst du nicht.
Gute Nacht, ihr Sünden,
bleibet weit dahinten,
kommt nicht mehr ans Licht!
Gute Nacht, du Stolz und Pracht!
Dir sei ganz, du Lasterleben,
gute Nacht gegeben.

So nun der Geist des,
der Jesum von den 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.

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.


Jesus, my joy,
my heart’s delight,
Jesus, my treasure!
Ah! how long, how long
has my heart been troubled
and desirous of Thee!
Lamb of God, my bridegroom,
nothing on earth can be
dearer to me than Thee.

Damnation befalls not those
who are in Christ,
and who pursue not the flesh
but the spirit.

Beneath Thy shield
I am protected from the raging storms
of all my enemies.
Let Satan storm,
let the foe rage,
Jesus will stand by me!
Though there now be thunder and lightning,
though sin and Hell spread terror,
Jesus will protect me.

For the law of the spirit,
which gives life in Christ
Jesus, has liberated me
from the law of sin and death.

Despite the old dragon,
despite the jaws of death,
despite the fear of death!
Rage, O world, and rear up,
I shall stand here and sing
in confident tranquillity!
I respect God’s might;
earth and abyss will be silenced,
however much they now demur.

But ye are not of the flesh
but of the spirit,
so strangely does God dwell in you.
But he who has not the spirit of Christ
is not His.

Away with all riches,
thou art my delight,
Jesu, my desire.
Away with you, vain honours,
I shall not give ear to you,
do not enter my mind!
Misery, distress, affliction, shame and death,
though I must suffer much,
shall not part me from Jesus.

When Christ is in you,
the body is dead to sin,
but the spirit is life
for the sake of righteousness.

Farewell, O you
who have chosen the world;
I do not love you.
Farewell, O sins,
stay far behind me,
never come to light again!
Farewell, O pride and pomp!
Life of wickedness,
may you be wreathed in night!

Now the spirit of him
who raised Jesus from the dead
lives in you;
the same who raised Jesus
from the dead shall give life
to your mortal bodies
because the spirit lives in you.

Depart hence, you spirits of sadness,
for the Lord of my joy,
for Jesus enters.
To those whom God loves,
even their sorrow
must be sweetened.
Though I endure mockery and scorn on earth,
thou art still my Jesus, my joy,
in the midst of my suffering.


  • Release date
    14 May 2020
  • Recording date
    28 February 2019
  • Location
    Grote Kerk, Alkmaar
  • Conductor
    Christoph Prégardien
  • Soprano
    Lucia Caihuela, Maria Valdmaa, Klaartje van Veldhoven, Lauren Armishaw, Orlanda Velez Isidro, Marjon Strijk
  • Alto
    Marine Fribourg, Elsbeth Gerritsen, Eimi Witmer, Inga Schneider, Bart Uvyn, Laura Lopes
  • Tenor
    Guy Cutting, Immo Schröder, David Lee, Adriaan de Koster, Yves Van Handenhove, Diederik Rooker
  • Bass
    Drew Santini, Matthew Baker, Martijn de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Donald Bentvelsen, Michiel Meijer, Joep van Geffen
  • Organ
    Siebe Henstra
  • Director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Martin Struijf, Jesper Blok, Wesley Schipper,
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot, Patrick Galvin, Fiona Verkleij, Henry Rodgers
  • Assistant director
    Stefan Ebels
  • Video engineer
    Justin Mutsaers
  • Project manager team
    Ron Vermeulen
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters, Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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