“Beethoven’s Ninth made the [Best of 2010] list ... with an ‘Ode to Joy’ finale that brought down the house.”



 






JS Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach  (1685-1750
Johann Sebastian Bach
Komm, Jesu, Komm  (BWV 229)
Lobet Den Herrn  (BWV 230)
Jesu, Meine Freude  (BWV 227)
“I was born out of due time in the sense that by temperament and talent I should have been more suited for the life of a small Bach, living in anonymity and composing regularly for an established service and for God.”
— Igor Stravinsky

To perform or listen to the cantatas and motets of J.S. Bach is to enter a powerful world of German Lutheran melody and verse that dates to Martin Luther himself (Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott — “A Mighty Fortress is our God” — ca. 1529). Marrying simple, compelling melodies to memorable, often biblical texts in the vernacular was an effective way to build knowledge and understanding among the faithful.

That musical and literary heritage — the chorale melodies and texts — was well-known to Lutherans of Bach’s day, a very rich environment for a church musician who was expected to compose constantly for services of the church, particularly music for festivals, funerals, and special occasions.

Paul Thymich was a teacher, poet, and opera librettist, active in Leipzig in the late 17th century. He wrote the 11-verse poem “Komm, Jesu, Komm” in 1684 so that Johann Schelle, cantor of Thomasschule and a pupil of Heinrich Schütz, could set it to music for the funeral of the school’s rector. Bach, who became cantor of Thomasschule in 1723, used only the first and final verses for his motet, likely composed between between 1723 and 1734.

Johann Franck (1618-77), trained as a lawyer, was a politician (mayor of Königsberg), poet, and writer of hymn verses. His devotional writings are all that survive of his work, but they are well-represented both in the music of J.S. Bach and in modern-day hymnals — Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (Soul, adorn thyself with gladness), Komm, Heidenheiland, Lösegeld (Come, ransom of our captive race), and Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, priceless treasure). A selection of his hymn texts, set to music by Christoph Peter, an organist in Guben, appeared in the Andachtscymbeln, the oldest Guben hymn book, in 1648. The chorale melody as it appears in Bach’s work was written by Johann Crüger and first appeared in Crüger's hymnal Praxis pietatis melica in 1653.


Komm, Jesu, Komm
Text by Paul Thymich (1656-94)

Komm, Jesu, komm, mein Leib ist müde.
Die Kraft verschwind't je mehr und mehr,
ich sehne mich nach deinem Friede;
der saure Weg wird mir zu schwer!

Komm, komm, ich will mich dir ergeben.
Du bist der rechte Weg, die Wahrheit und das Leben.

Drum schließ ich mich in deine Hände
und sage: Welt, zu guter Nacht!
Eilt gleich mein Lebenslauf zu Ende,
ist doch der Geist wohl angebracht.
Er soll bei seinem Schöpfer schweben,
weil Jesus ist und bleibt
der wahre Weg zum Leben.

Come, Jesus, come, my body is weary.
My strength fails more and more,
I long for your peace;
the bitter path becomes too hard.

Come, come, I will yield to you;
You are the right path, the truth and the life.

So I give myself into your hands
and say: Good night, o world!
Just as my life’s journey hurries toward its end,
the spirit is brought forward.
It hovers next to its creator,
for Jesus is and remains
the true way to life.


Lobet Den Herrn
Psalm 117, verses 1–2 (Martin Luther’s translation)

Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden;
preiset ihn, alle Völker!
Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit
waltet über uns in Ewigkeit.
Halleluja!

Praise the Lord, all nations,
praise him, all peoples,
for his mercy and truth
rule over us for eternity.
Hallelujah!


Jesu, Meine Freude
Chorale texts by Johannes Franck (1650); Chorale melody by Johann Crüger (1653)

I
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.

II (Römer 8:1)
Es ist nun nichts Verdammliches an denen, die in Christo Jesu sind, die nicht nach dem Fleische wandeln, sondern nach dem Geist.

III
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.

IV (Römer 8:2)
Denn das Gesetz des Geistes, der da lebendig machet in Christo Jesu, hat mich frei gemacht von dem Gesetz der Sünde und des Todes.

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

VI (Römer 8:9)
Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich, sondern geistlich, so anders Gottes Geist in euch wohnet. Wer aber Christi Geist nicht hat, der ist nicht sein.

VII
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.

VIII (Römer 8:10)
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.

IX
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.

X (Römer 8:11)
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.

XI
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.

I
Jesus, my joy,
my heart’s pasture,
Jesus, my desire,
ah how long, how long
has my heart admired
and longed for you!
Lamb of God, my bridegroom,
nothing on the earth
is dearer to me than you.

II (Romans 8:1)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

III
Beneath your protection
I am free from the storms
of all my enemies.
Let Satan get wind of me,
let my enemy be exasperated —
Jesus stands by me.
Even if there is thunder and lightning,
even if sin and hell terrorize,
Jesus will protect me.

IV (Romans 8:2)
For the law of the Spirit of life, which gives us life in Christ Jesus, has made me free from the law of sin and death.

V
I defy the old dragon,
I defy the jaws of death,
I defy fear as well!
Rage, o world, and spring to attack:
I stand here and sing
in secure peace.
God’s strength takes care of me;
earth and the abyss must fall silent,
however much they growl.

VI (Romans 8:9)
You, however, are not of the flesh but of the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ is not his.

VII
Away with all treasures!
You are my delight,
Jesus, my joy!
Away with empty honors,
I am not going to listen to you.
Remain unknown to me!
Misery, distress, affliction, humiliation and death —
even if I must endure much suffering,
nothing will separate me from Jesus.

VIII (Romans 8:10)
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

IX
Good night, existence
chosen by the world,
you do not please me.
Good night, you sins,
stay far behind me.
Come no more to the light
Good night, pride and splendor.
Once and for all, sinful existence,
I bid you good night.

X (Romans 8:11)
So now, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, that same one who raised Christ from the dead will likewise make your dead bodies alive through his Spirit, who dwells in you.


XI
Give way, you saddening spirits,
for my joyful master,
Jesus, now enters in.
For those who love God
even their afflictions
become pure sweetness.
Even if I must endure shame and disgrace here,
even in suffering you remain,
Jesus, my joy!