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Bach Motets: Jesu, meine Freude

Sunday 5 February 2023, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Oxford Bach Soloists
Tom Hammond-Davies (conductor)
Nick Pritchard (tenor)

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Nick Pritchard, tenor

Nick Pritchard, tenor

Bach’s motets constitute the most perfect and gem-like set amongst his works. They lay at the heart of his work as a teacher and choir-trainer, and grew out of a genre which the Bach family had cultivated for generations. This was the repertory that all his pupils were expected to sing and to master.

Bach’s longest and most musically complex motet, Jesu, meine Freude, was the first of his motets to be recorded in 1927. It consists of 11 movements, structured as a palindrome, and alternates between Johann Franck’s hymn of the same name, and biblical verses from Romans 8. No one really knows when it was written, or why. For a long time, scholars speculated that it may have been written for a funeral in Leipzig. But Bach scholar Christoph Wolff suggests that Bach may have composed and compiled the motet for the education of his choir in both composition techniques and theology.

This epic motet is flanked by two solo cantatas, performed for us by tenor Nick Pritchard. Ich armer Mensch is Bach’s only extant cantata for tenor, and is based on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. The singer begins by reflecting on his sinful condition, then asks God for mercy with the words “Erbarme dich” (“Have mercy”), the same words used in his St Matthew Passion in Peter’s aria regretting his denial of Jesus.

Ich habe genug is one of the most recorded and performed of Bach’s sacred cantatas. The opening aria and so-called “slumber aria” are regarded as some of the most inspired creations of Bach, and much-loved by his wife, Anna Magdalena, who copied it out in her Notebook.

J. S. Bach Cantata: Ich habe genug BWV 82a
Johann Gottfried Walther Organ: Partita sopra ‘Jesu, meine Freude’
J. S. Bach Motet: Jesu, meine Freude BWV 227
J. S. Bach Cantata: Ich armer Mensch BWV 55

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This is the fifth in a series of concerts, centring on Bach’s Motets BWV 225 – 230, taking place between October 2022 and March 2023. 

Can’t make the concert in person? Then you can watch it online through our Digital Concerts Subscription.


Sunday 5 February 2023
2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
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New College Chapel
Holywell Street
Oxford, OX1 3BN
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