Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is the most common English title of the 10th and last movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 ("Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life"), composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1716 and 1723.
A transcription by the English pianist Myra Hess (1890–1965) was published in 1926 for piano solo and in 1934 for piano duet. It is often performed slowly and reverently at wedding ceremonies, as well as during Christian festive seasons like Christmas and Easter, in spite of the affect suggested by Bach in his original scoring, for voices with trumpet, oboes, strings, and continuo.
Much of the music of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben comes from Bach's Weimar period. This earlier version (BWV 147a, composed 1716) lacked the recitatives, but included the opening chorus and the four arias incorporated into the later version. For Leipzig (composed 1723), Bach added three recitatives and the celebrated chorale movement which concludes each of the two parts.
Although it is the 32nd surviving cantata that Bach composed, it was assigned the number BWV 147 in the complete catalogue of his works. Bach wrote a total of 200 cantatas during his time in Leipzig, largely to meet the Leipzig Churches' demand for about 58 different cantatas each year.
Contrary to the common assumption, the violinist and composer Johann Schop, not Bach, composed the movement's underlying chorale melody, "Werde munter, mein Gemüthe"; Bach's contribution was to harmonize and orchestrate it. It is one segment of an extended, approximately 20-minute treatment of a traditional Church hymn, as is typical of cantatas of the Baroque period.
Bach scored the chorale movements (6 and 10) from Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben for choir, trumpet, violin, optionally oboe, viola, and basso continuo. The music's wide popularity has led to numerous arrangements and transcriptions, such as for the classical guitar and, in Wendy Carlos' album Switched-On Bach, on the Moog synthesizer. According to The New Oxford Companion to Music, the best-known transcription for piano is by Dame Myra Hess.
The following is the most commonly heard English version of the piece. It was written by the poet laureate Robert Bridges. It is not a translation of the stanzas used within Bach's original version, but is inspired by the stanzas of the same hymn composed in 1642 by Johann Schop that Bach had drawn upon: "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne", the lyrics of which were written in 1661 by Martin Janus (or Jahn, c. 1620–c. 1682).
Performances of Chorale from BWV 147, "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring)
Performed in 1935 by Orchestre symphonique de Paris (3:35)
Performed by Orchestra Gli Armonici (3:22)
Piano, organ, some bells and harps (3:13)
Harpsichord, violin, viola, cello (2:39)
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Jesu, joy of man's desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.
- "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" lyrics, Our Wedding Songs
Jahn's verses express a close, friendly, and familiar friendship with Jesus, who gives life to the poet. It has been noted that the original German hymn was characteristically a lively hymn of praise, which is carried over somewhat into Bach's arrangement; whereas a slower, more stately tempo is traditionally used with the English version.
Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe,
Well for me that I have Jesus,
Below are the opening stanzas of Jahn's "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne".
Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne,
Jesus, delight of my soul,
- Boyd, M., ed. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", The Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, Oxford University Press
- Kennedy, M., ed. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press
- "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", The Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, Oxford University Press
- Bach Cantatas, Chronological Listing
- Arnold, Denis (1983). The New Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-311316-3.
- Bach; "Jesu, joy of man's desiring", web-published by St Basil's Music
- BWV 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben
- Free sheet music of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring from Cantorion.org
- Cantata, BWV 147: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Recording of the German original version and the English translation (The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford)
- "Kantate, BWV 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben": Teil II, X. Choral "Jesus bleibet meine Freude"" at MusicBrainz (information & list of recordings)
- Arrangement for solo guitar