Episode 16: Orpheus Plays Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

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Monday, November 24, 2014

As we enter the final week of our My Daily Bach download series, we are featuring one of Bach's signature chorale pieces – the Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring performed by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, BWV 147
Johann Sebastian Bach
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Available at Arkivmusic.com

This is another signature work of Sebastian Bach, but if we’re to give full credit to the creators, we have to include two other people. This is one of Bach’s most famous chorale settings – but it’s a setting. The chorale – the hymn tune – was composed by Johan Schop, about a century before Bach got ahold of it. And the original words that we know in English as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, were written by another fellow before Bach’s time, a guy named Johann Rist. The chorale words and melody were well-known to Bach’s congregation; the decorative counter-melody was Bach’s contribution. Sebastian got into trouble with some of his employers for “mingling strange tones” into chorales when he played them on the organ for congregational singing. But if it weren’t for Bach’s strange tones, most of us wouldn’t know Schop’s melody or Rist’s words at all. Here’s the chorale in Bach’s setting, BWV 147, played by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

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