Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 39, "Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot," BWV 39 (BC A96)

    Description by John Keillor

    This is among the first-rate cantatas of Bach, though his legacy is almost bizarrely consistent in comparison to other composers. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot (‘Bring Bread to the Hungry ‘) was premiered 23 June 1726. It was once though that this work was written for the Protestants who were forced to leave Salzburg during this period, but that theory has since fallen away. The composer was at Leipzig and, and for several months of 1726 had access to church music from the court chapel at of Meiningen, from which Bach could borrow ideas and inspiration. Duke Ernst Ludwig probably wrote the words of this cantata, and the original setting of this text was likely that of Johann Ludwig Bach, who was J.S. Bach's distant cousin and a Meiningen composer. Some cantatas, such as the 39th, written by the more illustrious Bach at this time sometimes clearly reveal the influence of these earlier-written scores. This style of the elder Bach, and the general construction of the work as a whole is often referred to as the Mannheim pattern. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot adheres to this style. The scheme of the score is divided into two parts, each beginning with a line biblical text. Opening with a movement based on a line from the Old Testament (Isaiah 58: 7-8) followed by recitative and aria. The second part starts with a New Testament line--Hebrew 13: 16--followed by aria (two of them), recitative, and concluded by a chorus. Within this framework, Bach manages to generate a richness of colour and polyphony that far exceeds the original, and the touches of variety make for a constant newness within a strict framework. For example, each aria is sung in a different vocal range. The same is true for recitatives, and the instrumentation of each movement varies. It is a gorgeous, edifying work.


    1. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot
    2. Der reiche Gott wirft seine Überfluss auf uns
    3. Seinem Schöpfer noch auf Erden
    4. Wohlzutun un mitzuteilen
    5. Höchste, was ich habe
    6. Wie soll ich dir, o Herr, denn sattsamlich vergelten
    7. Selig sind, die aus Erbarmen

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2011 Warner Classics 671365
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Soli Deo Gloria 177
    2009 BIS 1801
    2008 DG Archiv 439380
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Teldec Classics 8573812025
    2005 Soli Deo Gloria 101
    2004 Virgin 62252
    2004 Erato 4614012
    2004 Challenge Records 72216
    2002 Virgin 562025
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 561721
    2001 Haenssler 92561
    2001 Koch 7535
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92013
    1999 Teldec 3984-25706-2
    1996 Haenssler 98802
    1994 DG Archiv 439 368-2AX26
    1994 Teldec 4509-91757-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1988 Teldec 35269
    Brilliant 99704/17
    Brilliant 99704
    Brilliant 93102/93
    Brilliant 99705/36
    Brilliant 99705
    Brilliant 93102-VOL4