Cantata BWV 147 'Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben' (includes 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring')
Johann Sebastian Bach


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Bach has 11 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame, making him your fifth most popular composer after Mozart, Beethoven, Elgar and Tchaikovsky. This is his sixth entry, which peaked at number 95 in 2006.

If we translate the title of the most popular section of Bach's cantata a little more accurately than the now ubiquitous English version we know, it comes out something like 'Jesus remains my joy, my heart's comfort and essence', rather than 'Jesu, joy of man's desiring'.

Indeed, the rest of the translation bears precious little relation to the actual German text, written by the lawyer and poet Salomo Franck. Accuracy of words aside, this exquisite movement choral interludes between that divine, undulating melody might be best seen as a mere key to unlocking the rest of the cantata, entitled 'Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben' (which translates as 'heart and mouth and deed and life').

19th century steel engraving of Jesus Christ.