Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75
|Die Elenden sollen essen
|Church cantata by J. S. Bach|
Nikolaikirche, c. 1850
|Occasion||First Sunday after Trinity|
|Performed||30 May 1723Leipzig:|
|Movements||14 in two parts (7, 7)|
|Bible text||Psalms 22:26|
|Chorale||"Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan"|
|Comment||First cantata in cantata cycle I|
|Vocal||SATB choir and solo|
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat), BWV 75,[a] in Leipzig for the first Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 30 May 1723. The complex work in two parts of seven movements each marks the beginning of his first annual cycle of cantatas.
Bach composed the cantata at a decisive turning point in his career. After various positions in churches and courts, he assumed his post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig on the first Sunday after Trinity, performing this cantata. He began the ambitious project of composing a new cantata for every occasion of the liturgical year.
The work is structured in an unusual layout of 14 movements in two symmetrical parts, to be performed before and after the sermon. The unknown poet begins his text with a quotation from Psalm 22 and departs from its ideas on wealth and poverty, rich and poor, and illustrates the contrasts. The focus of the second part is on being poor or rich in spirit. Both parts are concluded by a stanza of Samuel Rodigast's hymn "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan".
Johann Sebastian Bach had served in several churches as Kantor and organist, and at the courts of Weimar and Köthen, when he applied for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig. He was 38 years old and had a reputation as an organist and organ expert. He had composed church cantatas, notably the funeral cantata Actus tragicus around 1708. In Weimar, he had begun a project to cover all occasions of the liturgical year by providing one cantata a month for four years, including works such as Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, and Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172.
History and words
Bach composed the cantata for the First Sunday after Trinity and first performed it in the service in the Nikolaikirche on 30 May 1723, to take up his position as Thomaskantor. From then he was responsible for the education of the Thomanerchor, performances in the regular services in the Thomaskirche, the Nikolaikirche, Neue Kirche and Petrikirche. He started a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year, termed by Christoph Wolff "an artistic undertaking on the largest scale".
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle of John, "God is Love" (1 John 4:16–21), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31). An unknown poet begins the cantata with a verse from a psalm, Psalms 22:26 (verse 27 in the Luther Bible), "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever", connecting the gospel to the Old Testament as a starting point. The later cantata for the same occasion, Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39 (Break your bread for the hungry), begins similarly with a quotation from the Old Testament. The poet expands on the contrast of "Reichtum und Armut" (wealth and poverty, rich and poor) in fourteen elaborate movements, arranged in two parts to be performed before and after the sermon. The poet expands the contrast of "Reichtum und Armut" (wealth and poverty, rich and poor) Both parts are concluded by a stanza of Samuel Rodigast's hymn "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan", stanza 2 in movement 7, stanza 6 in movement 14.
The autograph score is written neatly on non-Leipzig paper, probably while Bach still lived in Köthen. A Leipzig chronicle, "Acta Lipsiensium academica", reported the social event: "... führte ... Hr. Joh. Sebastian Bach ... mit gutem applauso seine erste Music auf" (... performed ... with good applause his first music). "Good applause" means "great approval" rather than clapping of hands. A different translation renders the note as "... the new Cantor and Director of the Collegium Musicum, Herr Johann Sebastian Bach, who has come hither from the Prince's court of Cöthen, produced his first music here with great success."
Structure and scoring
The cantata is structured in two parts of seven movements each, to be performed before and after the sermon. It is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir SATB, trumpet (Tr), two oboes (Ob), oboe d'amore (Oa), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo (Bc) including bassoon. The two parts of seven movements each are composed as the same arrangement of alternating recitatives and arias with a concluding chorale, only Part II is opened by a sinfonia instead of a chorus. The duration is given as 35 minutes.
In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. The keys and time signatures are taken from Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4). The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.
|1||Die Elenden sollen essen||Psalms 22:26||Chorus||SATB||2Ob Fg||2Vl Va||E minor|
|2||Was hilft des Purpurs Majestät||anon.||Recitative||B||2Vl Va|
|3||Mein Jesus soll mein alles sein||anon.||Aria||T||Ob||2Vl Va||G major|
|4||Gott stürzet und erhöhet||anon.||Recitative||T|
|5||Ich nehme mein Leiden mit Freuden auf mich||anon.||Aria||S||Oa||A minor||3/8|
|6||Indes schenkt Gott ein gut Gewissen||anon.||Recitative||S|
|7||Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan||Rodigast||Chorale||SATB||2Ob||2Vl Va||G major|
|8||Sinfonia||Tr||2Vl Va||G major|
|9||Nur eines kränkt||anon.||Recitative||A||2Vl Va|
|10||Jesus macht mich geistlich reich||anon.||Aria||A||2Vl unis.||E minor||3/8|
|11||Wer nur in Jesu bleibt||anon.||Recitative||B|
|12||Mein Herze glaubt und liebt||anon.||Aria||B||Tr||Vl Va||C major|
|13||O Armut, der kein Reichtum gleicht||anon.||Recitative||T|
|14||Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan||Rodigast||Chorale||SATB||2Ob||2Vl Va||G major|
Bach marked the occasion, creating the opening chorus reminiscent of a French overture, with a slow first section in dotted rhythm and a fast fugue. He chose the same form one year later to begin his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas with O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20. The composition can also be seen as a prelude and fugue on a large scale. The prelude is again in two sections separated by a short interlude, in the way of a motet according to the different ideas of the text. In the fugue on the words "Euer Herz soll ewiglich leben" (your heart shall live for ever), the subject is developed three times, again separated by interludes.
Four of the recitatives are "secco", accompanied only by the continuo, but the first one of each part is "accompagnato", brightened by the strings. In the arias, the voice and the instruments mostly share the themes. The arias can be considered as a suite of French dance movements, the tenor a Polonaise, the soprano aria a Minuet, the alto aria a Passepied and the bass aria a Gigue. In the last aria, the trumpet opens the setting and then accompanies the bass in virtuoso figuration, adding splendour to the words "Mein Herze glaubt und liebt" (My heart believes and loves).
The music of the two stanzas of the chorale is identical. The tune is not a simple four-part setting as in most of Bach's later cantatas, but the voices are embedded in a concerto of the orchestra, led by violin I and oboe I. The instrumental theme is derived from the first line of the chorale tune.
The sinfonia beginning Part II, rare in Bach's cantatas, is especially remarkable because it is a chorale fantasia on the same chorale melody. The tune is played by the trumpet which was silent throughout Part I, as the cantus firmus against a polyphonic string setting, emphasizing once more "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (What God does is well done).
|Title||Conductor / Choir / Orchestra||Soloists||Label||Year||Orch. type|
|Die Bach Kantate Vol. 38||Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling Frankfurter Kantorei Bach-Collegium Stuttgart||Hänssler||1970||Chamber|
|J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 19||Leonhardt, GustavGustav Leonhardt Leonhardt-Consort||Teldec||1977||Period|
|J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 6||Koopman, TonTon Koopman Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir||Antoine Marchand||1998||Period|
|J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 8 – Leipzig Cantatas||Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki Bach Collegium Japan||BIS||1998||Period|
|Bach Edition Vol. 19 – Cantatas Vol. 10||Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink Holland Boys Choir Netherlands Bach Collegium||Brilliant Classics||2000||Period|
|Bach Cantatas Vol. 1: City of London / For the 1st Sunday after Trinity||Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner Monteverdi Choir English Baroque Soloists||Soli Deo Gloria||2000||Period|
|J. S. Bach: Weinen, Klagen||Herreweghe, Philippe Philippe Herreweghe Collegium Vocale Gent||Harmonia Mundi France||2003||Period|
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