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Commit Whatever Grieves Thee (BWV 244.44)

Setting by Johann Sebastian Bach

“Commit Whatever Grieves Thee” (Befiehl du deine Wege), text by Paul Gerhardt (1656). Tune (Herzlich tut mich verlangen) by Hans Leo Hassler (1601). Chorale setting by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 244.44). Homophonic, SATB.
Recording of stanzas 1, 9, and 10. Soprano: Hannah Engwall, Alto: Anna Hahn, Tenor: Andrew Richard, Bass: Nathanael Hahn. May 2023.

Paul Gerhardt wrote the hymn “Commit Whatever Grieves Thee” based on Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.” In German the verse is: “Befiehl dem HERRN deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn; er wird’s wohl machen.” Gerhardt structured the hymn so that the stanzas begin with successive words of that verse (he takes “dem HERRN” together at the beginning on stanza 2). It is one of the greatest hymn texts for reflecting on the Christian’s response to affliction and tribulation.

Johann Sebastian Bach included the present setting of this hymn in his St. Matthew Passion. We come to this part of the account of our Lord’s Passion: “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly” (Mt. 27:12-14). And immediately following these words, the choir sings the first stanza of the hymn.

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