Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the most influential composers of the Late Baroque period and his works are still widely well known and performed today. Bach’s Cantata No. 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben or as popularly known in English Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring was written in 1716 and is the 10th and last movement of the Cantata. This piece shows many sides of Bach’s musical style such as his fluency in contrapuntal invention and motivic control. This movement of the Cantata is still widely performed today especially at weddings.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring was composed during Bach’s “Weimar period”, when he was the court organist at Weimar. During that time he wrote cantatas for church music and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring was one of those pieces. Bach’s musical style is known for his virtuosity, counterpoint, and in his organ music his extensive use of pedals. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring was originally written as a choral work with the original scoring written for trumpet, oboes, strings, and continuo as well as voices. The original piece also lacked recitatives as you can hear in the recording. This cantata is so popular though that many arrangements and transcriptions have been made for other instruments and recitatives have been added. Another one of Bach’s musical characteristics is seen in this piece. In many of Bach’s organ chorale pieces the melody is treated like a canon and that can be heard throughout Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. The melody repeats itself often and is not embellished.
Comparing Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring to another one of his other works Durch Adams Fall (Through Adam’s Fall) there are many similarities and differences. In this piece Durch Adams Fall Bach uses the organ in a sort of text painting way. The top line carries the melody or the chorale tune while the bottom line has descending leaps to “depict” Adam’s fall from God’s grace. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring does not use text painting and has many repeated passages unlike Durch Adams Fall.
I have always love Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and was very excited to listen and try to analyze the piece. I have played it in countless weddings but I’ve never really thought about Bach’s musical style and how it fit into the piece. I also enjoyed listening to all the different arrangements of this cantata – there were so many to choose from!
Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, New York). 2010.
An Introduction to Johann Sebastian Bach. Accessed March 12, 2014. http://www.urbansite.org/websamples/jsBach/style.html
“Bach- Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring (ORGAN).” Youtube Video. Uploaded February 13, 2009. Posted by “enriquevicasaa.” Accessed March 12, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdWVfrZ3MeQ
“Bach: Cantata, BWV 147, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Youtube Video. Uploaded April 4, 2008. Posted by “Imperial Hotel Management College.” Accessed March 12, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwWL8Y-qsJg