J.S. Bach: The Church Cantatas, Vol. 10: Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39

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BWV39, written for 23 June 1726, is one of Bach’s most eminent creations. It presents a `social gospel’, urging Christians to help those in need. The two-note motive repeated throughout the magnificent opening chorus indicates the breaking of the bread of which the text speaks. (Albert Schweitzer, however, thinks it expresses the tottering of the weak.) The choir enters and there is a break in the music after `brich’. This is the beginning of a long chain of intensely beautiful musical ideas: intense sadness on `Elend’, long runs on `führe’ expressive of the leading of the destitute (a motive already found in the orchestral opening), a fugue on `Brich dem Hungrigen’ with a splendidly long theme, the voices coming together on `führe ins Haus’, a short intermezzo at `So du Einen Nackend siehest’ – and then there are two fantastic fugues still to come, the theme of the one on `Und die Herrlichkeit’ basically the same as that on `Alsdenn wird dein Licht’. A bass recitative leads to the alto aria with a fine oboe/violin duet, the foretaste of heaven present in the music, which scatters (`streuet’) the blessings all around us. The bass aria once again reminds us not to forget doing well, as such offerings please God well. The soprano aria with a beautiful tune for the two recorders is followed by Bach’s most breathtakingly beautiful recitative. The harmonic windings and the build-up to the climax makes one’s heart skip a beat; it leads to a fine final chorale.

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Artists: Netherlands Bach Collegium, Holland Boys Choir, Pieter Jan Leusink (conductor), Bas Ramselaar (Basso), Sytse Buwalda (Alto) & Ruth Holton (Soprano)

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Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39:
00:00 I. Coro. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot (Coro)
06:58 II. Recitativo. Der reiche Gott wirft seinen (Basso)
08:33 III. Aria. Seinem Schöpfer noch auf Erden (Alto)
12:41 IV. Aria. Wohlzutun und Mitzuteilen (Basso)
15:35 V. Aria. Höchster, was ich habe (Soprano)
18:41 VI. Recitativo. Wie soll ich dir, o Herr (Alto)
20:28 VII. Choral. Selig sind, die aus erbarmen (Coro)

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