Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78, belongs to a group of chorale cantatas composed during Bach's second year in Leipzig. Composed for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity in the Lutheran liturgical calendar, it probably received its first performance on September 10, 1724. The text is based upon a 1641 hymn by Johann Rist and also contains some material from the Gospel of St. Luke. The author of the text in its present form is unknown.
As is the case in most of Bach's chorale cantatas, the first and last movements are choral and feature the hymn tune. The inner movements take a variety of different forms. The first movement is by far the most elaborate, and is in the form of a G minor passacaglia, a form defined by recurrence of a basic four-measure theme. The theme in this case is a chromatically descending lamento figure, so named because musical phrases of this ilk were often used in the Baroque era as bass lines to vocal laments. The inner movements of the cantata are strikingly different settings of text, with a duet for soprano and alto in B-flat Major, a tenor recitative and aria in G minor, followed by a bass recitative and aria in C minor. Jesu, der du meine Seele concludes with a chorale setting of the hymn tune in G minor, ultimately cadencing in G Major with a Picardy third.
In this cantata, through his use of the chromatic lamento figure, Bach's concept of death comes with impassioned anticipation. This essence of spiritual reflection, central to all of Bach's church cantatas, is manifested throughout Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78.