BWV 229 "Komm,
work is the one exception regarding the source of the motet text:
"Komm, Jesu, komm" is a setting of hymnbook poetry by
Paul Thymich. The text appeared in the Leipziger Gesangbuch
Komm, Jesu, komm, mein Leib ist müde,
Die Kraft verschwindt je mehr und mehr,
Ich sehne mich nach deinem Frieden;
Der saure Weg wird mir zu schwer.
Komm, komm, ich will mich dir ergeben,
Du bist der rechte Weg,
Die Wahrheit und das Leben.
Come, Jesus, come, my flesh is weary,
My strength deserts me more and more,
I yearn for Thy peace;
Life’s bitter journey is too hard for me.
Come, I will give myself to Thee,
Thou art the sure Way,
The Truth and the Life.
Drauf schliess ich mich in deine Hände
Und sage, Welt, zu gutter Nacht!
Eilt gleich mein Lebenslauf zu Ende,
Ist doch der Geist wohl angebracht,
Er soll bei senem Schöpher schweben,
Weil Jesus ist und bleibt
Der wahre Weg zum Leben.
Thus I yield myself into Thy hands,
And bid the world good night.
Soon as my life may end,
My soul is prepared.
It shall rise up with its Creator,
For Jesus is, and remains,
The true way to Life.
that the first stanza of poetry ends with a famous quote from the
Gospel of John, 14:6 (I am the way, the truth and the life). The
text was originally written in 1684 for the funeral of Jacob Thomasius,
rector of the Thomasschule, and set to music by one of Bach's predecessors
in Leipzig, Johann Schelle. The original text contains many more
stanzas, but Bach chose to use only the first and last (for reasons
which are not clear).
and Ich lasse
Dich nicht, Komm, Jesu, komm is a double-chorus
motet. But in combination with the other two, we get to see how
many various possibilities this scoring allowed, for different textures
and characters in the music.
in Der Geist or Ich lasse Dich nicht, the listener
does not see or hear the two choirs as completely separate entities
in Komm, Jesu, komm. This is due in large part to Bach's
use of a strongly chordal opening -- our ears are trained from the
start to perceive the parts not as individuals but rather as a collective.
This motet is filled with musical imagery, far more than I
will discuss here, but a few examples are in order. To begin, the
repeated calling "Komm" at the opening, in many measures
and voices, really does feel like a plea from all humanity. This
is the dominant image both aurally and visually, as you can
the excerpt and see in the score below:
vocal entrances become more disparate as the text changes to "die
Kraft verschwindt je mehr und mehr" (my strength leaves me
more and more) -- the "strength in numbers" opening texture
has been abandoned a bit, as the basses in each choir separate themselves
from the other voices, and there is almost no overlap between the
lines of text later, note the dissonant intervals -- descending
diminished sevenths -- Bach uses on the words "the bitter way
[path of life]. Listen to it...
bitterness really comes through in Bach's 8 repetitions of this
most dissonant interval.
lively "komm" section intervenes, after which Bach makes
a complete change of texture, mood, meter, and character. Beginning
with the text "du bist der rechte Weg," Bach changes the
music to 6/8 meter, which has a very natural lilting flow. This,
combined with the homophonic texture, brings a sense of peacefulness
to the music, as though by acknowledging the Lord as "the Way,
the Truth, and the Life," they have found inner peace.
this is a distinct separate movement, marked "Aria" in
the score. Since modern audiences are used to the term "aria"
referring to a solo vocal piece, most often associated with opera
or perhaps oratorio, the use of "aria" here may be confusing.
But in Bach's day, there was a sub-class of works for chorus which
in nature, homophonic
in texture, where the soprano line clearly carried the melody line.
Schelle's setting of "Komm, Jesu, komm," incidentally,
employs all of these characteristics, leading us to think that Bach
surely would have known that work. Bach's setting here is rather
chorale-like, with the two choirs joining together as one (all sopranos
singing the same line, for example), and using fermatas at the end
of each line of text, highlighting the rhyme of the stanza:
to an excerpt
2003 Carol Traupman-Carr