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Shirley S Kirsten

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Memories of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
By Shirley S Kirsten   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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as played on my Steinway O grand piano, that sadly departed.

I love the carol medley sung in chorus at this time of the year, especially, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," which had a touch of Mendelssohn, though he was not the original composer; "Silent Night," "O' Come All Ye Faithful," "O' Holy Night," "The Little Drummer Boy," and "Angels We Have Heard on High."

But my all time favorite in this season is J.S. Bach's "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring."


"Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is the most common English title of the 10th movement of the cantata "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. A transcription by the English pianist Myra Hess (1890–1965) was published in 1926 for piano solo and in 1934 for piano duet. The British organist Peter Hurford made his organ transcription for the chorale movement as well. Today, it is often performed at wedding ceremonies slowly and reverently, in defiance of the effect suggested by Bach in his original scoring, for voices with trumpet, oboes, strings, and continuo. Written during his first year in Leipzig, Germany, this chorale movement is one of Bach's most enduring works."

Among the transcriptions noted above, I played the Myra Hess solo version, as well as the one for two pianos. The second arrangement fell into my hands compliments of an adult student who brought it to her lesson one afternoon. Because it would not accommodate the two of us at one piano, we plopped ourselves down at our separate grands, and hobbled through a challenging score.

In those days I had a second Steinway beside my model M, 1917 which had been hauled cross country from New York City. Held up in Missouri for over a week, it finally squeaked into Fresno, CA a month later. In the meantime, the referenced "O" model (5'11") joined the musical family, acquired through a friend of a friend who knew of an estate liquidation in Sacramento. After an able concert technician was dispatched to check out the piano, he recommended its purchase for the steal price of 5K. Normally, I would not have recommended such a sight unseen acquisition, but a time crunch required quick action.

The gamble was worth it. I came into possession of a fine grand that needed work down the line, but for years sang in its original voice like a nightingale. It was a perfect match for its sister Steinway, that resonated with "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" par duo.

Sadly, a decade later, I parted with the "O" due to dwindling finances. Listed in the <em>Bee</em> Classifieds for less than a week, it fell into the hands of a couple from San Francisco who came to Fresno to inspect it. I remember that day well because I had played "Jesu," once again, which sadly closed the deal.

In memory of my Steinway O and Bach's ethereal musical offering, I unearthed this version of the chorale which I could play at sight.

Here it is:


Web Site: Memories of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

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