• Roxanna Panufnik
  • Jesu, my delighting (2023)
    (for double SATB choir, violoncello and organ)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)

Commissioned by Deutscher Musikrat for the Bundesjugendchor

  • vc + SSAATTBB; 2org/vc
  • Cello
  • 9 min

Programme Note

When the Bundesjugendchor approached me to write them a companion piece for Bach motets, the particularly beautiful ‘Jesu, Meine Freude’ came to mind and I asked my regular collaborator Jessica Duchen to create a new and more lyrical translation of the Johann Franck words. 

I then sent a questionnaire to the young singers, so that I could find out more about what they like to sing and why. Also, what it was particularly that they liked about Bachʼs music. The piece was to be in English, but I have used some of the original German – sometimes for dramatic effect, but also for the benefit of audiences whether in Germany or the UK. 

The result is a nine-minute setting, with Baroque ‘cello and continuo organ, as personalized as possible to the Bundesjugenchor’s musical tastes! All of their requests are in bold, below. 

The first verse is a slow chorale (with elaborate fashioning), ‘soft to human voices’ and full of rich, sophisticated harmonies and pure emotion. The first sopranos hold the main melody, which runs through the whole piece. 

The drama ramps up in Verse 2, in 3/4, where swirling figures and bitonal harmonies underpin the basses, who have the theme. 

Verse 3 is even more theatrical. The tenors get their requested lieder-like solo, accompanied by fast, sophisticated rhythms, sometimes in 5/8. They have uncharacteristically low notes, syncopation, glissandi and some enhancing old-fashioned ornamentation. 

The altos get their turn in Verse 4, singing the main theme from the depths to the upper end of their tessitura. They requested the beautifully lilting 7/8 time signature and that only female voices are singing! The music is full of emotion with some harmonic surprises and suspensions. The sopranos had also requested to accompany, rather than feature. 

Finally, in Verse 5, the second sopranos take up the melody in a repeat of the first verseʼs chorale. 

This piece is dedicated to the Bundesjugendchor, in gratitude for their inspiring musical suggestions and I am hugely grateful to them, the German Music Council and Deutscher Musikrat for the commission. 

Roxanna Panufnik, 14 April 2023

Jesu, meine Freude,                                        Jesu, my delighting,
Meines Herzens Weide,                                  Joyful heart inspiring,
Jesu, meine Zier,                                            Jesu, my own jewel,
Ach wie lang, ach lange                                  Ah, how long I languish,
Ist dem Herzen bange                                   Heart so deep in anguish,
Und verlangt nach dir!                                    Longing but for you!
Gottes Lamm, mein Bräutigam,                      Lamb of God, my spirit’s spouse,
Außer dir soll mir auf Erden                            Here with you beside me, earthly,
Nichts sonst Liebers werden.                          Nothing else is worthy.

Unter deinem Schirmen                                  Under your protection
Bin ich vor den Stürmen                                  Am I from the threat’ning
Aller Feinde frei.                                             Of all fiends set free.
Laß den Satan wittern,                                    Let the devil hunt me,
Laß den Feind erbittern,                                 Let the evils hurt me,
Mir steht Jesus bei.                                         Jesus stands by me.
Ob es itzt gleich kracht und blitzt,                  Thunder crashes, lightning cracks,
Ob gleich Sünd und Hölle schrecken:             Sin and hell may hurl their welter:
Jesus will mich decken.                                   Jesus is my shelter.

Trotz dem alten Drachen,                                Face the flaming dragon,
Trotz des Todes Rachen,                                  Jaws of death so jagged,
Trotz der Furcht darzu!                                   Face the fear of harm!
Tobe, Welt, und springe,                                  Rage then, world, tormenting;
Ich steh hier und singe                                   I stand here and, singing,
In gar sichrer Ruh.                                          Keep my inner calm.
Gottes Macht hält mich in acht;                      Mighty God shall hold me firm,
Erd und Abgrund muss verstummen,            Earth and abyss must fall silent,
Ob sie noch so brummen                               From their clamour’d violence.

Weg mit allen Schätzen!                                 Gone are all my treasures!
Du bist mein Ergötzen,                                   You alone my pleasure,
Jesu, meine Lust !                                           Jesu, joy to me!
Weg ihr eitlen Ehren,                                      Gone are vain ambitions,
Ich mag euch nicht hören,                              There I shall not listen,
Bleibt mir unbewusst!                                     Stay unknown to me!
Elend, Not, Kreuz, Schmach und Tod              Anguish, pain, cross, shame and death,
Soll mich, ob ich viel muss leiden,                  Whatsoever I must suffer,
Nicht von Jesu scheiden.                                 Jesu holds me ever.

Weicht, ihr Trauergeister,                                Vanish, ghosts of sorrow,
Denn mein Freudenmeister,                           Let my joyful master,
Jesus, tritt herein.                                            Jesus, enter in.
Denen, die Gott lieben,                                   They who know God’s loving
Muß auch ihr Betrüben                                   Even in their grieving
Lauter Zucker sein.                                          Final joy must win.
Duld ich schon hier Spott und Hohn,              Here I may have scorn and pain,
Dennoch bleibst du auch im Leide,                 Yet you’re still, through world benighted,
Jesu, meine Freude.                                          Jesu, my delighting.

Johan Franck 1653, translated and poeticized by Jessica Duchen