Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226

Today for Classical Sunday, I’m featuring a grand, choral work by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). I usually favour slower, more calming pieces and today I decided it was time to change things up.

Bach composed the motet Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (The Spirit gives aid to our weakness) in 1729 for the funeral of Johann Heinrich Ernesti (1652-1729), a philosopher, theologian and poet from Saxony, Germany. (Motet is a composition style based on a sacred text which includes two or more independent melodies and is often played without accompaniment.)

The text for the motet came from the Christian Bible, specifically Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Romans 8:26-27), and a stanza from a hymn by German hymn writer, theologian and priest Martin Luther (1483-1546), and is composed for two choirs. The piece was meant to represent the text, as opposed to being music for mourning; thus, it has a lively rather than a melancholy quality. It is a complicated piece with many sounds going on at the time, and it’s not hard to imagine it being performed in a vast, airy worship space or performance venue, with the decay of the choir’s massive sound floating into the rafters at the end of each verse.

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf is quite a glorious piece of music that is new to me; I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did.

The piece comes from the album, John Eliot Gardiner: His Erato Recordings (1982).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here. Please enjoy the official audio of the English Baroque Soloists Orchestra and Monteverdi Choir under the direction of English conductor John Eliot Gardiner.

With my best wishes,


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