The eight-part Fürchte dich nicht
has been assigned to the funeral service of the wife of the Leipzig official Stadthauptmann Winkler on 4 February 1726. The work is in two movements. The first, a setting of Isaiah 41, verse 10, uses a modernized version of the late sixteenth-century polychoral style, with the two choirs answering and combining largely in block chords. Exactly half way through the work the text changes to Isaiah 43, verse 1, set to a three-part chromatic fugue sung by the combined lower voices of the two choirs, which then supports two verses of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn ‘Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen’, given out as a cantus firmus by the combined sopranos. Of the six Bach motets, this is the one most closely related in style to the motets of the earlier members of his family; indeed, it has exactly the same formal scheme as the eight-part setting of ‘Fürchtet euch nicht’ by Johann Michael Bach (1648–94), a work that Bach would have known from a copy in the archive of his family’s compositions, which he helped to assemble.
from notes by Peter Holman © 1990