Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): – The Church Year – Trinity Sunday: Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75

Bach 150x150 captionedOn May 22, 1723 Bach moved to Leipzig to take up his position as the newly-elected Kantor at the Thomasschule and although he wasn’t formally installed until June 1st he apparently started work immediately, for on Sunday May 30th the first performance of one of his large-scale Cantatas took place to great applause. The Cantata in question which is in two parts was ‘Die Elenden sollen essen‘ (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 the anonymous text to which is based on Luke 16:19-31 – the parable of the rich man and Lazarus . It’s one of my favourite Cantatas, Bach was determined to start his tenure at Leipzig with a display of musical fireworks and he certainly succeeded. It’s huge (if you count up ‘Die Elenden sollen essen’s‘ sections – or movements if you prefer to call them that, you’ll find no less than fourteen separate movements). Not only is it huge but Bach filled it  choc-a-bloc with musical inventiveness, some wonderful arias, ditto recitatives, and that’s before I mention the simply superb orchestral writing. The cumulative effect of all of this is a thrilling and dramatic piece of music.

Part I

Like the Cantata itself the opening chorus is divided in two. The first part reminds me of a recitative, it’s slow, almost stumbling, with a chromatic depiction of the wretched condition of the poor and hungry. This is followed by a fugue that is first taken up by the four voices and then by the chorus. The Christian themes of the necessity of helping the poor and of abjuring the evils of pride and selfishness are first heard in the bass recitative and developed further with beautifully lyricism in the tenor aria sung to oboe and string accompaniment. The second theme in the Cantata is the Lutheran doctrine that mankind must suffer for its sins. This doctrine is proclaimed in the Tenor recitative which is followed by the Soprano aria and recitative meditating on how even though a lifetime of suffering leads to death that "yet in the end it is well done" for the angels will take the true Christian who bears their sufferings like Lazarus "to themselves". – The writing for oboe is particularly noteworthy and beautiful here.

Having developed the theme that Christian suffering being accepted and overcome is "well done" Bach takes it further in the beautifully elaborated chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan;" (What God does is well done) that proclaims to full orchestral accompaniment the uplifting message that in the end the redeemed Christian "will be delighted".

The first part of the Cantata having ended the congregation would listen to the day’s sermon.

Part II

Following the sermon the second part of the Cantata would be performed. Bach reinforces what went before with a high trumpet reprise of Samuel Rodigast’s hymn in the opening sinfonia to the second part of the Cantata. This being finished Bach follows up with an alternating sequence of three recitatives and two arias all of which develop the theme that heavenly rewards and riches are greatly to be preferred to earthly ones. I quite like the alto aria ("Jesus macht mich geistlich reich ") but for me the bass aria with trumpet obbligato (Mein Herze glaubt und liebt) far eclipses it. The tenor recitiative that follows (O Armut, der kein Reichtum gleicht!) prepares the way for a stirring repeat of the chorale heard at the end of part one.

Enjoy :-)


Video Source: Bach – Cantate BWV 75 – Die Elenden sollen essen – YouTube Published on 24 Mar 2012 by MusicArt61 

Performer Information Soloists:

Soprano: Marcus Klein (Knabenchor Hannover)
Alto: Paul Esswood
Tenor: Adalbert Kraus
Bass: Max van Egmond

Performer Information Choirs and Orchestra:

Knabenchor Hannover – Heinz Hennig
Collegium Vocale Gent – Philippe Herreweghe
Leonhardt-Consort – Gustav Leonhardt

Text & Translation: Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV75

[showhide type=”showtext” more_text=” Click to show/hide text ” less_text=” Click to show/hide text ” hidden=”yes”]

 Deutsch Erster Teil English First Part
1Chor Die Elenden sollen essen, daß sie satt werden, und die nach dem Herrn fragen, werden ihn preisen. Euer Herz soll ewiglich leben.
(Psalm 22:25)
The wretched shall eat until they are satisfied, and those who ask after the Lord, shall praise Him. Your hearts shall live forever.
2Rezitativ Baß
Was hilft des Purpurs Majestät,
Da sie vergeht?
Was hilft der größte Überfluß,
Weil alles, so wir sehen,
Verschwinden muß?
Was hilft der Kitzel eitler Sinnen,
Denn unser Leib muß selbst von hinnen?
Ach, wie geschwind ist es geschehen,
Daß Reichtum, Wollust, Pracht
Den Geist zur Hölle macht!
Recitative Bass
What good is the majesty of royalty
when it passes away?
What good is the greatest abundance,
since everything that we see
must disappear?
What good is the tickling of vain thoughts,
since our bodies themselves must be gone?
Ah, how quickly it happens,
that riches, pleasure, grandeur
send the spirit to hell!
3Arie Tenor
Mein Jesus soll mein alles sein!
  Mein Purpur ist sein teures Blut,
  Er selbst mein allerhöchstes Gut,
  Und seines Geistes Liebesglut
  Mein allersüß’ster Freudenwein.
Aria Tenor
My Jesus shall be all to me!
  My royal purple is his precious blood,
  He alone my greatest good,
  and the fiery love of His spirit
  the sweetest wine of joy to me.
4Rezitativ Tenor
Gott stürzet und erhöhet
In Zeit und Ewigkeit.
Wer in der Welt den Himmel sucht,
Wird dort verflucht.
Wer aber hier die Hölle überstehet,
Wird dort erfreut.
Recitative Tenor
God topples and exalts
in time and in eternity.
Whoever seeks heaven in the world,
will be cursed hereafter.
But whoever overcomes hell here,
will be overjoyed hereafter.
5Rezitativ Sopran
Ich nehme mein Leiden mit Freuden auf mich.
  Wer Lazarus’ Plagen
  Geduldig ertragen,
  Den nehmen die Engel zu sich.
Aria Soprano
I take my sorrows upon me with joy.
  Whoever bears Lazarus’ torments
  the angels will take to themselves.
6Rezitativ Sopran
Indes schenkt Gott ein gut Gewissen,
Dabei ein Christe kann
Ein kleines Gut mit großer Lust genießen.
Ja, führt er auch durch lange Not
Zum Tod,
So ist es doch am Ende wohlgetan.
Recitative Soprano
Meanwhile God sends a good conscience,
with which a Christian can
enjoy a small good with great pleasure.
Indeed, even though long suffering
leads only to death,
yet in the end it is well done.
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan;
Muß ich den Kelch gleich schmecken, Der bitter ist nach meinem Wahn,
Laß ich mich doch nicht schrecken,
Weil doch zuletzt
Ich werd ergötzt
Mit süßem Trost im Herzen;
Da weichen alle Schmerzen.
(Second verse of
"Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan," )
What God does is well done,
even if I must taste the cup
that is bitter to my perception,
I will not let myself be frightened,
since in the end
I will be delighted
with sweet comfort in my heart;
then all pains will cease.
 Zweiter TeilSecond Part
9Rezitativ Altus
eines kränkt
Ein christliches Gemüte:
Wenn es an seines Geistes Armut denkt.
Es gläubt zwar Gottes Güte,
Die alles neu erschafft;
Doch mangelt ihm die Kraft,
Dem überirdschen Leben
Das Wachstum und die Frucht zu geben.
Recitative Alto
Onl one thing troubles
a Christian’s conscience:
when it considers its spiritual poverty.
It certainly believes in God’s goodness,
which renews all things;
yet the power is lacking to it
to give to the otherworldly life
growth and fruit.
10Arie Altus
Jesus macht mich geistlich reich.
Kann ich seinen Geist empfangen,
Will ich weiter nichts verlangen;
Denn mein Leben wächst zugleich.
Jesus macht mich geistlich reich.
Aria Alto
Jesus makes me spiritually rich.
If I can embrace His spirit,
I will long for nothing more;
for my life will grow with it.
Jesus makes me spiritually rich.
11Rezitativ Baß
Wer nur in Jesu bleibt,
Die Selbstverleugnung treibt,
Daß er in Gottes Liebe
Sich gläubig übe,
Hat, wenn das Irdische verschwunden,
Sich selbst und Gott gefunden.
Recitative Bass
Who rests in Jesus alone,
and is driven by self-denial,
which in God’s love
he practises in faith,
has, when earthly things have disappeared,
found himself and God.
12Arie B
Mein Herze glaubt und liebt.
  Denn Jesu süße Flammen,
  Aus den’ die meinen stammen,
  Gehn über mich zusammen,
  Weil er sich mir ergibt.
Aria B
My heart believes and loves.
  For Jesus’s sweet flames,
  out of which my own stem,
  sweep over me together,
  since He gives Himself to me.
13Rezitativ Tenor
O Armut, der kein Reichtum gleicht!
Wenn aus dem Herzen
Die ganze Welt entweicht
Und Jesus nur allein regiert.
So wird ein Christ zu Gott geführt!
Gib, Gott, daß wir es nicht verscherzen!
Recitative Tenor
O poverty, like no other kingdom!
When out of the heart
the entire world departs
and Jesus alone governs.
Then a Christian will be led to God!
Grant, God, that we do not scorn it!
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan,
Dabei will ich verbleiben.
Es mag mich auf die rauhe Bahn
Not, Tod und Elend treiben;
So wird Gott mich
Ganz väterlich
In seinen Armen halten;
Drum laß ich ihn nur walten.
(Sixth verse of "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" )
What God does, is well done,
I will cling to this.
Along the harsh path
trouble, death and misery may drive me.
Yet God will,
just like a father,
hold me in His arms:
therefore I let Him alone rule.
Series Navigation<< Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): – The Church Year – Pentecost: Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! – BWV 172

2 thoughts on “Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): – The Church Year – Trinity Sunday: Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75

  1. Very enjoyable selection and great performances by the whole ensemble, with special praise due young masters Esswood and Klein.


    • It’s a fantastic performance – I was so happy to discover it had been uploaded to YouTube.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *