カンタータ:BWV 39 Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot ("Break with hungry men thy bread" or "Give the hungry ones thy bread"), BWV 39, in Leipzig and first performed on 23 June 1726, the first Sunday after Trinity that year. Three years earlier, on the first Sunday after Trinity in 1723, Bach had taken office as Thomaskantor and started his first cycle of cantatas for Sundays and Feast Days in the liturgical year. On the first Sunday after Trinity in 1724, he began his second cycle, consisting of chorale cantatas. The cantata Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot is regarded as part of Bach's third cantata cycle which was written sporadically between 1725 and 1727.

The text of the cantata is taken from a 1704 collection of librettos from Meiningen, many of which had been set to music in the cantatas of Bach's distant cousin Johann Ludwig Bach, Kapellmeister at Meiningen. The librettos have been attributed to his employer Duke Ernst Ludwig von Sachsen-Meiningen. The symmetrical structure of seven movements is typical for this collection: the opening quotation from the Old Testament, followed by a recitative and an aria; then the central quotation from the New Testament, followed by an aria and a recitative, leading into the final chorale. The theme of BWV 39 is an invocation to be grateful for God's gifts and to share them with the needy.

Bach set the opening Old Testament passage as a large scale complex movement for four-part chorus and full orchestra in three sections, one for each sentence in the biblical quotation. By contrast he set the New Testament passage beginning the second part as a bass solo accompanied by a single obbligato violoncello, the bass voice representing the traditional voice of Jesus. The cantata is scored for three groups of instruments-alto recorders, oboes and strings?from which the four obbligato soloists are drawn that accompany the two arias, for alto and soprano.

Composition history

Bach composed the cantata for the First Sunday after Trinity on 23 June 1726. The precise dating of the autograph manuscript was only determined fairly recently by authorities on Bach, particularly those like Alfred Durr, Christoph Wolff and Klaus Hofmann who were involved in preparing Urtext editions for the Neue Bach-Ausgabe and establishing the Bach Archive in Leipzig. The circumstances surrounding the composition were clarified by other Bach scholars, notably William H. Scheide and Konrad Kuster. Before the dating was known, several commentators had given 1732 as the date of composition, dubbing it the "Refugee Cantata", supposedly composed in response to the arrival in Germany of Protestants banished from Salzburg; it is unknown whether there was a repeat performance of the cantata to commemorate that event.

The first Sunday after Trinity marks the beginning of the second half of the liturgical year, "in which core issues of faith and doctrine are explored". It had particular significance for Bach since it was on that day in 1723 that he assumed office as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. His duties included the education of the Thomanerchor and performances in the regular services of the main churches in Leipzig, the Thomaskirche and the Nikolaikirche. The most skilled church musicians-including SATB soloists and others doubling as choristers and instrumentalists-were based at the Thomaskirche where cantatas were performed each Sunday and on feast days. The other instrumentalists were either professional string players (Kunstgeiger), members of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer, an ancient band of brass and wind players, or travelling musicians. Remaining gaps in the orchestra were filled by pupils from the Thomasschule and university students. Bach's orchestra would have had 12-20 players in addition to himself and an organist. The soloists, choir and orchestra performed from two galleries above and around the principal organ loft in the centre of the Thomaskirche. Sometimes two cantatas would be performed during a service; and when a cantata was written in two parts, a sermon would be preached between the two parts or the second part would accompany communion. As Thomascantor, Bach instituted several changes in performance practise in Leipzig: he introduced more frequent and regular rehearsals for choristers, including individual lessons; he installed former students as organists and directors of music in the churches for which he was responsible; and?going beyond his church duties?he helped select and train municipal musicians.

On his appointment Bach embarked on the project of composing yearly cycles of cantatas with one for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year, a project which Wolff (1991) describes as "an artistic undertaking on the largest scale". The first cantata he wrote was Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75, beginning the first cycle on the first Sunday after Trinity in 1723; the cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20 from 1724 began the second cycle, again on the first Sunday after Trinity. With BWV 20, Bach entered on a new scheme for the second cycle: to compose chorale cantatas based exclusively on the main Lutheran hymns associated with the day in the liturgical calendar. After completing his second cycle, Bach's third cycle was composed sporadically between 1725 and 1727. Moreover, Bach does not seem to have marked the anniversary of his appointment in 1725. Somewhat exceptionally, from February to late September 1726, the cantatas performed in Leipzig were mainly those by Bach's distant cousin Johann Ludwig Bach, court composer at Meiningen, with gaps filled by Bach's own cantatas written in the previous year. During this period Bach not only had access to his cousin's compositions, but also to religious texts from the court at Meiningen. Of the relatively small number of nine cantatas newly composed by Bach during this period, seven were settings of Meiningen texts and all but one of these followed the formal compositional scheme of his cousin (BWV 39, BWV 88, BWV 187, BWV 45, BWV 102 and BWV 17). The first cantata based on a Meiningen text was Gott fahret auf mit Jauchzen, BWV 43 for the Feast of the Ascension on 30 May 1726. Following that, on 23 June 1726, the first Sunday after Trinity, Bach revived tradition by composing the cantata Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot for the beginning of his fourth year in office: it was the first "Meiningen" cantata written for an ordinary Sunday.

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle of John, (the "God is Love" verses, 1 John 4:16-21), and from the Gospel of Luke (the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31). Bach's first cantata for the occasion, Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75 (1723), had concentrated on the contrast between the rich and the poor; and the second, the chorale cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20 (1724), concerned repentance when faced with death and eternity. In contrast the libretto of Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot took as its theme gratitude for God's gifts and the duty to share them with the needy.

The libretto used by Bach for BWV 39 comes the 1704 collection for Meiningen, entitled Sonntags- und Fest-Andachten; these religious texts have been attributed to Ernst Ludwig I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, Johann Ludwig Bach's employer. All the Meiningen cantatas of Johann Ludwig Bach, performed in Leipzig between February and September 1726, had librettos from this collection. They all have a uniform structure in seven verse sections: each cantata starts with a passage from the Old Testament; followed by a recitative on a long verse text; an aria; a central passage from the New Testament; a second aria; a second recitative, often with more than two sentences so that it can end with a chorus; and a final chorale, sometimes with two stanzas. The Old Testament and New Testament passages usually have a common theme, with the former often prefiguring the coming of Christ. Bach departed from his cousin's model in two ways. Firstly he divided the libretto into two parts that framed the church sermon: Bach usually started Part II with the central New Testament passage; only in the case of BWV 102 did he place it at the conclusion of Part I. Secondly Bach took the sixth verse section of each libretto, written in archaic alexandrines, wholly as a recitative leading into the final chorale.

In the libretto of BWV 39, the Old Testament passage is taken from the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 58:7?8) and the New Testament passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:16). Both passages have as common themes the invocations to love thy neighbour and to share God's gifts. The final section of the libretto is the sixth verse of David Denicke's 1648 hymn "Kommt, last euch den Herren lehren", which involves the same themes. This hymn was sung to the same melody as the hymn "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele". The melody was first published by Louis Bourgeois as Psalm 42 in his collection of Psaumes octante trios de David (Geneva, 1551). The psalm melody itself was probably derived from the secular song "Ne l'oseray je dire" in the Manuscrit de Bayeux published around 1510.


Instrumentation and structure

Still life with baroque instruments, Elias van Nijmegen, first half of eighteenth century Bach scored the cantata for three vocal soloists (soprano (S), alto (A) and bass (B)), a four-part choir SATB, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two alto recorders (Fl), two oboes (Ob), first and second violins (Vl), violas (Va) and basso continuo (Bc). There are two sets of continuo parts from 1726: one is a score transposed for positive organ with figuration added by Bach in the first three movements; the other has annotations by the copyist for violoncello and double bass.

The Meiningen cantatas of Johann Ludwig Bach were scored for the four vocal parts and a small group of instrumentalists, consisting of two oboes, violins, violas and continuo: at Meiningen, as with many of the smaller courts in Germany, resources were limited; it appears that continuo instruments like bassoons were available only when these works were performed elsewhere. When Bach performed his cousin's cantatas in Leipzig in 1726, he used the same orchestral forces as Meiningen for all but two, adding trumpets with drums in one and piccolo trumpets in another.

Of no other instrument is Bach's characterisation so clear and consistent as the Blockflote ... No other instrument identifies itself so closely with the simple piety of Bach. It voices his tenderness for his Saviour, his serene contemplation of death as the portal to the eternal ... it is the vehicle of mysticism so deep-rooted in Bach's nature... for in its clear tones he could utter the ponderings of his devout mind.
"Bach's orchestra", Terry (1932).

Early 18C engraving of musicians with their baroque instruments, including recorder, flute, oboe, violin, harpsichord, bassoon and violoncello

Composer directing cantata from gallery in a church, engraving from Musicalisches Lexicon, Johann Gottfried Walther, 1732 The baroque alto recorder (blockflote in German) enjoyed a period of popularity in Europe as an orchestral instrument in the seventeenth century, starting with Monteverdi in his opera L'Orfeo. By the middle of the eighteenth century it had been displaced by the transverse flute. In France the transition was more marked, since cultural life centred on Paris; it was more gradual in Germany, made up of many separate principalities, all with their own court or municipal musicians. The baroque recorder was used in orchestral music in association with death and the supernatural; to express tenderness; in pastoral scenes (as the shepherd's pipe); and to imitate bird song.

In his places of employment prior to his appointment in Leipzig in 1723, Bach used the recorder as an orchestral instrument many times in cantatas and concertos; at Leipzig his use of the recorder diminished and BWV 39 was the last cantata he composed that included the instrument. Ruetz (1935) listed specific themes in movements of cantatas for which Bach had chosen the recorder: sleep, death, weeping, nature, sheep grazing, the singing of angels, and celestial light. Riemenschneider (1950) wrote of "Bach's sensitivity to particular instruments ... to realize the spiritual intent which was inherent in their characteristic qualities"; even when Bach had only limited instruments at his disposal, he chose with care. Echoing Terry (1932), Riemenschneider wrote that Bach "used the recorder for certain effects, where the text was especially intimate in the effacement of self and in the giving over to a higher power. He also used it for expressing extremely tender moments, where thoughts of death and the life to come were in question." The themes of the movements scored for recorders in Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot conform to Riemenschneider's description.

The cantata BWV 39 is in two parts, conforming to the structure of the Meiningen series. The first part begins with a long choral movement for four-part chorus and full orchestra. It is followed by a recitative for bass and an aria for alto, with obbligato violin and oboe. The second part begins with the central movement based on the New Testament text, a solo for bass, as vox Christi, accompanied by an obbligato violoncello. It is followed by an aria for soprano with obbligato recorders in unison. The second recitative for alto and strings leads into the concluding four-part chorale in which the choir doubled by the full orchestra. The complex scoring of the monumental opening movement, employing full orchestra and chorus, contrasts with that of the succeeding non-choral movements, which are accompanied by smaller more intimate groups of instruments.

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. The keys and time signatures are taken from Alfred Durr, using the symbol for common time (4/4). The instruments are shown separately for woodwind and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, Part I

Movements of Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, Part II

Movements The cantata is written in seven movements, with a symmetrical form: the first and last movements are for chorus and orchestra; the second and sixth movements are recitatives; the third and fifth movements are arias in two parts with da capo repeats only for the instrumental ritornello; and the central fourth movement is an accompanied solo. The metrical English translations below of the texts of the first six movements are by Henry Sandwith Drinker; and that of the seventh movement (chorale) is from the 1722 Psalmodica Germanica of John Christian Jacobi and Isaac Watts.

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