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Cantata BWV 75
Die Elenden sollen essen, daß sie satt werden
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 3, 2005 (2nd round)

Peter Bright wrote (July 3, 2005):
Introduction: BWV 75

The cantata for discussion this week (4 July to 10 July) is:

Cantata BWV 75
Die Elenden sollen essen
(“The miserable shall eat”)

One of the great cantatas, BWV 75 was first performed on 30th May 1723, just eight days after moving to Leipzig from Cothen.

This is one of my favourite works, and also, surely one of the most immediately enjoyable. One can only wonder at the response in the Nikolaikirche to its performance – in two parts and 14 movements, only BWV 76 matches its scale. It is also intriguing to speculate (as scholars have done) that by incorporating ‘14’, believed to be Bach’s own symbolic number, into the work, Bach was presenting his arrival ‘greeting’ to the audiences at the Nikolaikirche and the Thomasschule.

I like to avoid picking out one recording, given that other list members are often familiar with far more versions than I am, but I have to say that Suzuki’s version (vol. 8) [4], seems nigh on perfect to me: unrushed, fluid and perfectly realised in every department (except perhaps the soprano recitative – mov. 6 which lacks feeling). The two chorales, in particular, send shivers down my spine every time. It is works such as this that reinforce the sincere belief that no composer comes close to Bach in purity and beauty of writing. Check out, too, the simple but effective trumpet parts in the sinfonia which opens part 2, and in the wonderful, bright bass aria (mov. 12).

Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings:

Link to previous discussions:

It is possible to hear a variety of excerpts on the internet (including 2 complete versions: Leonhardt from 1977 [2], and Leusink, from 2000 [5]). See:

Chris Kern wrote (July 4, 2005):
Some of the recitatives seem very similar to ones in the SMP (BWV 244). In particular, "Indes schenkt Gott ein gut Gewissen" resembles very much either the message from Pilate's Wife, or perhaps the "And he set Barabbas free" section. Is there any particular reason for this, or is it just that recitatives tended to use the same musical phrases?

Neil Halliday wrote (July 10, 2005):
BWV 75

Emphatic chords from the orchestra in a triple-time dotted rhythm, interspersed by flourishes on the solo oboe, introduce the entreating music from the choir: "The miserable... shall be sated". The mood changes from sorrow to optimism, as the text progresses. The majesty of this section is followed by a confident, rhythmically energising Bachian fugue expressing the belief (or expectation )that "your heart shall live forever", with all the parts of the music joining in increasingly complex and dense polyphony towards the end. (I am always intrigued, in these choruses, by the way in which the words, allotted to different notes spread over the four vocal lines, come together as in a jigsaw puzzle).

Both Leonhardt [2] and Rilling [1] capture some grandeur and energy in their recordings.

In the tuneful tenor aria, Rilling has an excessively equipollent articulation of the quavers in the instrumental parts (to borrow Brad's terminology) ie, all the quavers are slightly separated with the same articulation; and Baldin brings a hard-edged, pitch-less vibrato to the melisma on "Freudenwein". Kraus with Leonhardt is more satisfying.

In the lovely, mellow, soprano aria, there are two different melismas on the word "Freuden"; the first in triplet semi-quavers, the second in devilishly difficult demisemiquavers that pass through changing accidentals.

Rilling has a charming accompaniment with bassoon minus strings in the continuo; but Reichelt brings an annoyingly ubiquitous vibrato to her part. She is more pleasing in the following secco recitative, with sensitive, flowing accompaniment from the cello and harpsichord. The boy soprano with Leonhardt brings sensitivity (but some instability) to the intimate, slow tempo version of the aria.

The sinfonia bubbles with animation, and the expressive, effortless power of Rilling's modern trumpet (Immer), playing the chorale tune, is most appealing.

Hamari is magnificent in the alto aria; Esswood with Leonhardt gives a fine performance in a uniquely slow tempo version of this aria.

Wow! This bass aria with trumpet leaves no room for doubt about the singer's joy and faith in his God. Rilling's modern trumpet (this time Sauter) with its soaring power is exhilarating, and Kunz brings fine singing to the aria.

In the (musically identical) chorale movements, Leonhardt`s tempo trips along delightfully; Rilling's version is weightier and more serious in mood (with perhaps not enough phrasing in the instrumental parts).

Rilling's recitatives are the better of the two recordings, with rich strings in the accompanied, and flowing accompaniment in the secco recitatives. Leonhardt's seccos have a dainty, disjointed, one-dynamic-level accompaniment that quickly becomes irritating in the longer recitatives.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 10, 2005):
Some thoughts on "who after the Lord ask" in BWV 75

In the opening chorus of BWV 75 we come across the words: "...they who ask (desire) after the Lord...", which if viewed in the light of the bombings in London, presents a conundrum we are now acutely facing - how and why it is that several contending revelations exist.

It is evident that religious leaders can no longer avoid dealing with incompatible `literalist' views of these different revelations; for while the politician Tony Blair at last seems to have grasped that we have to face up to the extent and degree of the West's culpability (as well as the Muslims' own culpability) for the oppression and depression existing in the Islamic world, religious disharmony is a worrisome aspect of these catastrophes. Simply labelling terrorists "evil" won't cut the mustard anymore - "mentally deranged" is probably closer to the truth, requiring a different solution.

Heartfelt commiserations to our London members.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 10, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Good review. Inspires me to get the Rilling [1].

John Pike wrote (July 12, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for this, Neil. I heard last night that the daughter of a vicar, here in Bristol, is amongst those missing following the attacks. Moments like this must test her parents faith very severely. I have also come across a number of cases recently of devout Christians dying very young of unpleasant illnesses. While one could argue that to be with Jesus is what all Christians yearn for, the consequences for those that love them, left behind, are truly devastating. I have been reflecting on all this a lot myself recently. My wife was diagnosed as having a potentially malignant tumour in her thyroid, removed on Saturday. She is 35. We do not know the histology yet but the surgeon told us after the operation that he would be very surprised if it proved malignant.

I often wonder at Bach's seemingly undiminished faith, despite all the terrible things that happened in his life. I thought particularly of his first wife Maria Barbara last week as I faced the possibility of something similar happening to me.


Random movement comments

Chris Kern wrote (May 31, 2006):
These are just a few comments on some specific movements of cantatas I've been enjoying lately:

1. BWV 76, movement 1, Suzuki

I just love the fugue in the second part of . The first time I heard the subject I thought it seemed too long but of course Bach shows he has no difficulty with it. The way he uses it is so joyful and well done that it overcame my doubt. Also hearing the combination of Midori Suzuki, Robin Blaze, Gerd Turk, and Chiyuki Urano is great.
(But I actually like the Leusink and Harnoncourt versions of the fugue as well...)

2. BWV 46, movement 1, Leonhardt

Leonhardt's fugue of this movement is excellent -- somehow when the boys first enter with the initial subject of the fugue it has an almost haunting effect.

3. BWV 131, movement 4, Herreweghe

Herreweghe made the unusual decision to use a lute for this cantata, and it works especially well in the tenor aria.

4. BWV 131, movement 3, Suzuki

The fugue is done by far the best by Suzuki -- the soprano entries are powerful, and the oboe playing is exceptional.

5. BWV 75, the choral movements, Suzuki

Suzuki seems to be the best of the HiP crowd at conducting choral movements; this might be because he has actual experience with church singing.


Performance of BWV 75

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 26, 2008):
Yesterday morning the Chapelle des Minimes performed BWV 75 "Die Elenden sollen essen".

Ed suggested that I give a little comment about it, so here we go.

Our conductor was Benoit Jacquemin, who is also an organ player and a musicologist, and it was interesting and rewarding to work with him. For us chorists, the master piece is the opening chorus. Benoit insisted on the progression from the prayer-like character in the beginning to the affirmation in faith in the second part. The fact that the vocal soloists sing first the fugue (from bar 68 to bar 80 - before the whole choir takes the relay) gives an interesting effect. As the fact that this part was intended for soloists was not indicated in our (Breitkopf) scores, we had prepared the whole chorus at home before the first rehearsal. Never mind, it was quite a pleasure to hear the soloists sing, and to sing with them in our heads!

Benoit made something unusual during the concert. In one of the numbers (sorry, can't remember which one, but in any case not a chorus), there was a slight discrepancy between the musicians at the start. After a few bars, he stopped everything and made the orchestra start over again from the beginning, and this time all went well. Everyone was suprised, but most of us appreciated his attitude.

I would give a special mention to the trumpet player (Andrei Kavalinski) who was really outstanding! A clear and bright sound (but that can also be mellow when needed), perfectly fluid playing and phrasing. I think it was the first time he played with the Chapelle des Minimes and everyone was impressed. In the bass aria, there was a good balance with the vocal soloist Conor Biggs, who has a strong and expressive voice.

The audience seemed very pleased, especially with the trumpet player but also with the first oboe player (Griet Cornelis) who received a warm applause. The vocal soloists were also appreciated (Anne-Hélène Moens, soprano, Isabelle Everarts, alto, Thibaut Lenaerts, tenor, and Conor Biggs, bass).

For those interested (especially Aryeh, I presume), the calendar of our next season is now online:

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 26, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
>Yesterday morning the Chapelle des Minimes performed BWV 75 "Die Elenden sollen essen".
Ed suggested that I give a little comment about it, so here we go.<
Thanks, Therese, I will have a <Chimay Bleu> in your honor! It is worth reminding everyone that BWV 75 is for Trinity 1, as is BWV 20 which I brought into discussion. Both are liturgically correct for yesterday, Sunday, and both are included on the Emmanuel Music two CD set of the cantatas for Trinity 1 and Trinity 2 [7].

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 27, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks for sharing this with us.

Nicholas Johnson wrote (May 27, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks for your concert schedules. The mass in G on 23rd October has a wonderful duet for soprano and alto with obligato violin. At bar 55 and later at bar 90 the voices sound rather bitonal to me.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 75: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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