About this work
The five motets positively attributed to J. S. Bach vary considerably from one another. Although ostensibly following in the tradition of the seventeenth-century German motet, characterized by a juxtaposition of contrapuntal and imitative choral passages, each reveals some different facet of Bach's technique; BWV 229 ("Come, Jesus, come") is typical of this diversity. As is the case with four of the five motets, neither the occasion nor the date of composition is known, although circumstantial evidence strongly points to a dating from Bach's Leipzig years (from 1723). The text is based on the first and last stanzas of a seventeenth-century funeral hymn by Paul Thymich; the lack of the traditional combination of biblical and hymn texts (unusual here) is mitigated by the poet's quotation in the last line of his first stanza of a paraphrase from St. John, "Thou art the way, the truth and the life" -- words given great emphasis by Bach. The hymn was originally written for the funeral in 1684 of Jacob Thomasius, the rector of the Thomasschule in Leipzig, set to music by Thomas Schelle, cantor of the Thomasschule from 1677 - 1701.
Bach sets the first verse as a double four-part chorus -- a texture he employs in three other of the motets. Each textural phrase has its own separate musical treatment in which texture and expression are constantly varied. The final stanza is treated more conventionally and straightforwardly as a mainly homophonic four-part chorus; its melody is a very rare example of Bach employing a chorale tune of his own composition within the context of a larger work. The motet is known today solely from a copy made around 1731-2 by Bach's pupil, Christoph Nichelmann.
Curated by Mariana Pimenta, Soprano