Composers Datebook®

Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"

J. S. Bach (1627 - 1750) – Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, from S. 147

Composer's Datebook - July 2, 2022


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July 02, 2022


On this date in 1723, church-goers in Leipzig were offered some festive music along with the gospel readings and sermon. The vocal and instrumental music was pulled together from various sources, some old, some newly-composed, and crafted into a fresh, unified work, a church cantata entitled “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” – which in English would be “heart and voice and thought and action.” The idea was that text and music would complement and comment on that day’s scripture readings and sermon.

Now this sort of thing was not all that uncommon back then for the hard-working composer Johann Sebastian Bach. On average Bach would prepare and present around 50 church cantatas a year, and Bach’s cantata No. 147, presented on July 2, 1723, concluded with a catchy melody that would be revived to great effect some 200 years later.

In 1926, the concluding choral section of Bach’s cantata, “Jesus bleibet meine Freude” in the original German, was arranged by the British pianist Dame Myra Hess and given an English title, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It became a popular piano recital selection, and, over time, a very popular piece to play at weddings – even though Bach’s original cantata text had nothing at all to do with tying the knot.

Music Played in Today's Program

J. S. Bach (1627 - 1750) – Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, from S. 147

On This Day


  • 1714 - German composer Christoph Willibald (Ritter von) Gluck, in Erasbach, Upper Palatinate


  • 1778 - French writer, music critic, and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, age 66, in Ermenonville


  • 1900 - Sibelius: tone poem "Finlandia," in Helsinki, with Robert Kajanus conducting; An earlier, vocal version of this music was first performed at the Swedish Theater in Helsinki on Nov, 4, 1899

  • 1929 - Gershwin: musical "Show Girl," at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York; This show included the classic Gershwin song "Liza"

  • 1949 - John Alden Carpenter: Symphony No. 2 (revised version), by the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia, with Fritz Busch conducting; The New York Philharmonic premiered the first version of this symphony on October 22, 1942, with Bruno Walter conducting

  • 1983 - Libby Larsen: "Deep Summer Music" for orchestra, in Terrance, Minn., by the Minnesota Orchestra, Joseph Giunta conducting


  • 1723 - Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi agrees to write and rehearse the music for two concerts a month at the Pièta School for Orphaned Girls in Venice