Johann Sebastian Bach
Motette: Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 227)

Arranged by Ralph Sauer

6 tenor (2 alto; 4 tenor), 2 bass trombones

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2019

Score and parts


Perhaps one of the best known and most widely performed of Johann Sebastian Bach’s motets, Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227 is widely believed to have been written as funeral music. Originally written for five SSATB voices, Ralph Sauer has masterfully transcribed this work for 8-part trombone ensemble.

Each movement is carefully transposed to best fit the trombone ensemble tessitura. The extra three trombone parts not only allow for variations in orchestration and texture but also afford many opportunities for all players to rest. Since a complete performance of the motet will last about 20 minutes, the title page of the score indicates that it is also possible to perform subsections of the entirety of the work and makes several suggestions for doing so.

While the first two trombone parts can technically be performed on tenor trombone, they regularly hang around c² and, as the score suggests, might be best suited for alto trombone. Likewise, the seventh and eight parts are indicated to be played on bass trombone. While they do occasionally play down to AA and BB, depending on the movements being performed the bass trombone parts could be easily managed by tenor trombones with F attachment.

Ralph Sauer’s transcription of Jesu, meine Freude is well suited to a variety of trombone choirs. Experienced trombonists will enjoy the sheer beauty of Bach’s transcendent counterpoint, while less experienced trombonists will benefit from the innumerable opportunities to work on phrasing, balance, blend, and intonation. This well crafted transcription of Bach’s masterpiece will surely become a staple of the trombone ensemble repertoire for many years to come.

Reviewer: Greg Strohman
Review Published November 20, 2019