The motet Ich lasse dich nicht was attributed to J S Bach for some seventy years after his death, according to Leipzig tradition. An early manuscript, lacking the final chorale and with no indication of the composer, was destroyed during World War II bombing. Its opening bars were in J S Bach's hand with the remainder being copied by Philip David Krauter, a pupil of Bach in 1712-13 during his years in Weimar. The motet may well date, therefore, from this time. The first known incorporation of the concluding chorale, already assigned to Bach by his son, C P E Bach, was in a transcription c. 1800 by J G Schicht, a successor to Bach as Kantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig between 1810-23; this, too, may be based on Leipzig tradition. The work was first published, with the closing chorale, under J S Bach's name by Breitkopfund Hartel in 1803.
In an edition of 1821, J F Naus reascribed it to Bach's uncle, Johann Christoph (1642-1703), generally regarded as the most important early member of the Bach musical dynasty, and it remained attributed to him, almost without question, for some 170 years. However, the American scholar, Daniel Melamed, has recently demonstrated that Naus's ascription was purely speculative and lacked authority. The weight of the available evidence now indicates that this striking work should be reassigned, with little reservation, to J S Bach. Its scoring for double choir and its combination of biblical quotation and chorale text, worked in chorale-prelude style, recall this distinctive practice in Bach's motet Furchte dich nicht, so further supporting the likelihood of his authorship.
Ich lasse dich nicht was included as a spurious piece in the Bach-Gesellschaft edition of 1892, but it has been omitted from the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. It became familiar, in an edition by Novello & Co., as I wrestle and pray, and this English text is incorporated in the present edition. The original text is from the 'wrestling Jacob' narrative (Genesis 32, verse 26), hence the free English version, but the addition of the words 'mein Jesu' imparts a Christian emphasis. In the absence of firm evidence, the chorale may be included or omitted according to individual preference, although the editor's view is that it provides a more fitting conclusion to the motet.
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