Bach Johann Sebastian - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
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Bach Johann Sebastian – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (or simply “Joy”) is the most common English title of a piece of music derived from a chorale setting 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 1723. The same music on different stanzas of a chorale closes both parts of the cantata.
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.
Bach composed a four-part setting with independent orchestral accompaniment of two stanzas of the hymn “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne”, written by Martin Janus in 1661, which was sung to a melody by the violinist and composer Johann Schop, “Werde munter, mein Gemüthe”. The movements conclude the two parts of the cantata.
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 following is the most commonly heard English version of the piece, attributed to the poet laureate Robert Bridges. It is not a translation of the stanzas used within Bach’s original version, but is inspired by stanzas of the same hymn that Bach had drawn upon: “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne”, the lyrics of which were written in 1661 by Martin Janus (or Jahn), and which was sung to Johann Schop’s 1642 “Werde munter, mein Gemüte” hymn tune.
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.