Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe
Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe (The blessings of the Lord make rich without toil) was written in 1725, about two years after Bach started as the Cantor at Leipzig. It is not known for certain that it was Bach who provided the music, but since it is more than likely, I have proceeded under this assumption.
In creating this reconstruction, I have made some optimistic assumptions about the resources Bach had at the time of its composition. I assumed he had his usual complement of strings and two oboes, a four-part chorus of two or three voices to a part, and (as he sometimes had) a flautist.
- The opening chorus consists wholly of the line quoted above. I assumed that Bach, as he normally did when confronted with a terse and cumbersome text such as this, would have set it to a fugue.
- The recitative preceding the first aria, describing mainly the injustice of having to work for a living, has two sections that suggest the use of an "arioso". The first is in quotes and is preceded by the statement, "I will sing this song", or something to that effect. As Bach had done numerous times in such situations, I temporarily abandoned the secco recitative for a few measures and had the soloist (tenor) sing a more melodic line against a countermelody in the continuo. Then, leading up to the aria, there is a statement answering the tenor's long list of complaints with a plea for patience. I gave this line to the soprano, who then sings the next aria.
Here is this recitative with its two ariosos.
- The first aria speaks of patience in the face of long years of drudgery, saying that God will bring a sense of peace. In setting this text, I took note of Albert Schweitzer's observation that Bach had a particular motive that he used when he wanted to convey exhaustion -- stepwise synchopation. Probably the most famous example of this is in the aria, "Schlummert ein, ihr mahten Augen" (BWV 82). I used the same sort of motive in this aria, which is set for soprano, continuo, and oboe obligatto.
- After much research in trying to determine which hymn tunes Bach had intended for the two chorales, I found two that seemed to fit. After all this work, and after I had started to set the first chorale to music, I discovered a source that reveals exactly which tunes were used. Fortunately, in both cases, I was dead-on target. The tunes are Aus meines Herzens Grunde, which closes the cantata and for which a Bach harmonization exists, and Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, for which I had already started a chorale-prelude type arrangement.
- The second aria I set for alto with continuo and flute obligatto (I later changed the obligatto part to solo violin, since the flute player would have to have stupendous lungs to play some of the long passages). The text urges the listener to be content with his lot in life, having faith that it is part of God's plan. To reinforce this peaceful theme, I used the same meter that Bach did in the famous "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" chorale setting, a compound triple meter.
- Finally, the closing chorale. I was going to use the existing Bach harmonization for this, but it didn't really fit the text. A couple of phrases from the chorale begged for different treatment than the corresponding phrase in the existing harmonization (such as when the word "freuen" was used, a word Bach never failed to give a charactaristic rhythm). So, I wrote a new harmonization in the style of Bach.