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Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring

posted Feb 15, 2014, 6:22 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 1:45 PM ]
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
 is the most common English title of the last movement of Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 ("Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life"). Italian for “sung”, a cantata is a vocal composition for soloists and choir with instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements. While working at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Bach was required to produce a new cantata for every Sunday service. This one was first performed on July 2, 1723; the Feast of the Visitation. It has ten movements, and two of them, including this one, are “sing-a-longs” designed to allow the congregation a chance to stand and stretch while they sing.

However, contrary to the common assumption, the chorale hymn we sing was not “composed” by Bach. The lyrics were published in 1665 by German poet Mar­tin Ja­hn. The melody was written by violinist Jo­hann Schop around 1642. Bach's contribution was to harmonize an 81-year-old melody, orchestrate it, and ultimately make it widely popular. 

In 1926, Dame Myra Hess created a solo piano version of it. Apollo 100’s electronic keyboards adaptation was featured in the film Boogie Nights. The Beach Boys used it as a basis for Lady Lynda. Renée Fleming, who just sang the national anthem for Super Bowl XLVIII, recorded it on her 2005 album “Sacred Songs". The Brian Setzer Orchestra performs a swing arrangement as Bach's Bounce. And if you YouTube “Japanese commercial Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” you can see it played on a GIANT gravity-driven xylophone constructed in a Kyushu forest!