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My Jesus, Oh What Anguish (arr Reed)

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. Alfred Reed)

Subtitle: Chorale Prelude for Concert Band/Wind Ensemble

This work is also known by its German title, Mein Jesu! was für Seelenweh. It bears the designation BWV 487.

General Info

Year: 1736 / 1975
Duration: c. 5:40
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: C.L. Barnhouse
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $68.00   |   Score Only (print) - $6.00


Full Score
Condensed Score
Flute I-II-III
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
Bass Saxophone (Opt.)
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
B-flat Cornet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass


In Score:

  • Timpani, m.50: Change hairpin crescendo to a hairpin decrescendo

- Potential errata noted by Matthew LeFebvre

Program Notes

Alfred Reed’s excellent transcription of My Jesus, Oh What Anguish (Mein Jesus, Was Für Seelenweh) is taken from a group of 69 ``Sacred Airs and Songs,’’ each of which exists only in the form of a single line with figured bass. It is considered to be one of the most haunting and poignant expressions of sorrow and compassion to be found in all of Western music.

- Program Note from publisher

Mein Jesu! was für Seelenweh (My Jesus! Oh, What Anguish) is one of a group of 69 sacred songs and airs attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, each of which exists only in the form of a single melodic line with figured bass. These pieces were first published in 1736, some 14 years before Bach’s death, as the musical settings for a huge collection of 954 sacred songs and hymns assembled by Georg Christian Schemelli and edited by Bach himself. In 1832, they made their first appearance as an addendum to the 371 four-part fully harmonized chorales as an edition published by C.F. Becker.

Ever since that time, there has been disagreement among scholars as to how many of these 69 melodies were actually written by Bach himself, how many were merely arranged by him, or even the exact number of these melodies that were composed or worked on by him. The standard Bach Gesellschaft edition, for instances, lists 75 such pieces, not 69. On the other hand, one of the greatest authorities on German evangelical church music, Johannes Zahn, claimed that only 21 of the 69 (or 75) should be considered as Bach’s own work and the rest credited to other composers.

Since the first separate appearance of this group of pieces in 1832, there have been at least eight other editions prepared by different authorities and published. It is interesting to note that the melody of Mein Jesu! appears in all of them. Its authenticity seems never to have been questioned by any of the compilers and editors of these collections during the past 150 years.

For all its apparent simplicity of musical construction (a small two-part form with each part repeated once), this music is deeply moving and highly expressive. In the present realization for winds from the figured bass, Bach’s harmonic intentions have been faithfully adhered to throughout and, except for choices of specific voicings and instrumental colors, nothing has been added to one of the most haunting and poignant expressions of sorrow and compassion to be found in all of Western music.

The first performance of this new setting took place on November 20, 1974, with the University of Miami Symphonic Wind Ensemble under the direction of Frederick Fennell.

- Program Note by Alfred Reed


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park, Calif.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Andy Collingsworth, conductor) - 11 December 2022
  • Southeastern Louisiana University (Hammond) Wind Symphony (Robert Schwartz, conductor) - 29 September 2022
  • University of Miami (Coral Gables) Frost Wind Ensemble (Robert Carnochan, conductor) - 1 May 2022
  • University of Maryland (College Park) Wind Orchestra (Michael Votta, conductor) - 10 December 2021
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Symphonic Band (Kevin M. Geraldi, conductor) - 22 November 2021
  • Santa Clara (Calif.) University Wind Ensemble (Anthony Rivera, conductor) – 21 November 2019
  • Baldwin-Wallace College (Berea, Ohio) Symphonic Band (Brendan Caldwell, conductor) – 11 October 2019
  • Southern Oregon University (Ashland) Wind Ensemble (Cynthia Hutton, conductor) – 6 June 2019
  • University of California, Los Angeles, Wind Ensemble (Travis J. Cross, conductor) – 26 April 2019
  • Temple University (Philadelphia, Penn.) Wind Symphony (Patricia Cornett, conductor) – 27 January 2019
  • Kent State (Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Jesse Leyva, conductor) – 7 December 2018
  • California State University, Long Beach, Symphonic Band (Jermie Arnold, conductor) – 11 October 2018
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble (Scott Teeple, conductor) – 5 October 2018
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Thomas Gamboa, conductor) – 25 September 2018
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Symphony Band (John T. Madden, conductor) – 25 April 2017
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Symphonic Band (Jerry Luckhardt, conductor) – 8 March 2017
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Gary Hill, conductor) – 18 February 2017
  • University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Ensemble (Rodney Dorsey, conductor) – 5 February 2017
  • Shenandoah Conservatory (Winchester, Va.) Wind Ensemble (Timothy Robblee, conductor) – 17 September 2016
  • Penn State University (University Park) Symphonic Band (Dennis Glocke, conductor) – 29 February 2015
  • University of Miami Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 20 November 1974 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Bach, J.; Reed, A. (1975). My Jesus! Oh, What Anguish = Mein Jesu! was für Seelenweh : Chorale Prelude for Concert Band/Wind Ensemble [score]. C.L. Banhouse: Oskaloosa, Iowa.
  • Perusal score