Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat), BWV
75, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. 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 and the
Nikolaikirche, and until 1725 also for one of two
services in the Paulinerkirche. 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 autograph score is written neatly on non-Leipzig
paper, probably while Bach lived still 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."
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 with the chorale cantata 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
In the arias, the voice and the instruments mostly
share the themes. The arias can be considered as a
suite of French dance movements with this, the alto
aria "Jesus macht mich geistlich reich" (esus makes me
spiritually rich) a Passepied.
Although originally scored for Alto vocal soloist,
violin, and basso continuo, I created this arrangement
for Concert (Pedal) Harp.