The cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (German: Bachkantaten) are among his most significant and celebrated compositions. While many have been lost, at least 209 of the cantatas composed by Bach have survived.


The cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (German: Bachkantaten) are among his most significant and celebrated compositions. While many have been lost, at least 209 of the cantatas composed by Bach have survived.

As far as we know, Bach's earliest surviving cantatas date from 1707, the year he moved to Mühlhausen (although he may have begun composing them at his previous post at Arnstadt). Most of Bach's cantatas date from his first years as Thomaskantor, cantor of the main churches of Leipzig), which he took up in 1723. Working especially at the Thomaskirche and the Nikolaikirche, it was part of his job to perform a church cantata every Sunday and Holiday, conducting soloists, the Thomanerchor and orchestra as part of the church service. In his first years in Leipzig, starting after Trinity of 1723, it was not unusual for him to compose a new work every week. Works from three annual cycles of cantatas for the liturgical calendar have survived. These relate to the readings prescribed by the Lutheran liturgy for the specific occasion. He composed his last cantata probably in 1745.

In addition to the church cantatas, Bach composed sacred cantatas for functions like weddings or Ratswahl (the inauguration of a new town council), music for academic functions of the University of Leipzig at the Paulinerkirche, and secular cantatas for anniversaries and entertainment in nobility and society, some of them Glückwunschkantaten (congratulatory cantatas) and Huldigungskantaten (homage cantatas).

His cantatas usually require four soloists and a four-part choir, but he also wrote solo cantatas for typically one soloist and dialogue cantatas for two singers. The words for many cantatas combine Bible quotes, contemporary poetry and chorale, but he also composed a cycle of chorale cantatas based exclusively on one chorale.

Name and titles

Although the term Bachkantate (Bach cantata) became very familiar, Bach himself used the title Cantata rarely in his manuscripts, but in Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56 he wrote Cantata à Voce Sola e Stromenti (Cantata for solo voice and instruments). Another cantata in which Bach used that term is Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, BWV 84. Typically, he began a heading with the abbreviation J.J. (Jesu juva, "Jesus, help"), followed by the name of the celebration, the beginning of the words and the instrumentation, for example in Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191. Bach often signed his cantatas with SDG, short for Soli Deo Gloria ("glory to the only God" / "glory to God alone").

Bach often wrote a title page for the autograph score and copies of the original parts. For example, he titled the parts of Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 38, using a mix of languages to describe the occasion, the incipit, the precise scoring and his name: "Dominica 21. post Trinit / Aus tieffer Noth schrey ich zu dir. / â / 4. Voc. / 2. Hautbois. / 2. Violini. / Viola. / 4. Tromboni / e / Continuo. / di / Signore / J.S.Bach". The occasion for which the piece was performed is given first, in Latin: "Dominica 21. post Trinit" (Sunday 21 after Trinity Sunday, with Trinit short for Trinitatis). The title follows, given in German in the orthography of Bach's time. The scoring and finally his name appear in a mix of French and Italian, the common languages among musicians at the time, partly abbreviated.

BWV number

Bach wrote more than 200 cantatas, of which many have survived. In the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV), Wolfgang Schmieder assigned them each a number within groups: 1–200 (sacred cantatas), 201–216 (secular cantatas), 217–224 (cantatas where Bach's authorship is doubtful). Since Schmieder's designation, several of the cantatas he thought authentic have been redesignated "spurious." However, the spurious cantatas retain their BWV numbers. The List of Bach cantatas is organized by BWV number, but sortable by other criteria.

Structure of a Bach cantata

A typical Bach cantata of his first year in Leipzig follows the scheme:

  1. Opening chorus
  2. Recitative
  3. Aria
  4. Recitative (or Arioso)
  5. Aria
  6. Chorale

The opening chorus (Eingangschor) is usually a polyphonic setting, the orchestra presenting the themes or contrasting material first. Most arias follow the form of a da capo aria, repeating the first part after a middle section. The final chorale is typically a homophonic setting of a traditional melody.

Bach used an expanded structure to take up his position in Leipzig with the cantatas Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75, and Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76, both in two parts, to be performed before and after the sermon (post orationem) and during communion (sub communione), each part a sequence of opening movement, five movements alternating recitatives and arias, and chorale. In an exemplary way both cantatas cover the prescribed readings: starting with a related psalm from the Old Testament, Part I reflects the Gospel, Part II the Epistle.

Bach did not follow any scheme strictly, but composed as he wanted to express the words. A few cantatas are opened by an instrumental piece before the first chorus, such as the Sinfonia of Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir, BWV 29. A solo movement begins Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille, BWV 120, because its first words speak of silence. Many cantatas composed in Weimar are set like chamber music, mostly for soloists, with a four-part setting only in the closing chorale, which may have been sung by the soloists. In an early cantata Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172, Bach marked a repeat of the opening chorus after the chorale.

The chorale can be as simple as a traditional four-part setting, or be accompanied by an obbligato instrument, or be accompanied by the instruments of the opening chorus or even expanded by interludes based on its themes, or have the homophonic vocal parts embedded in an instrumental concerto as in the familiar Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, or have complex vocal parts embedded in the concerto as in Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht, BWV 186, in a form called Choralphantasie (chorale fantasia). In Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61, for the 1st Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year, he shaped the opening chorus as a French overture.

巴赫 - 康塔塔 BWV 1-224
Composer: Bach
Opus/Catalogue Number:BWV 1等
Genre :Cantata


Update Time:2018-12-11 17:18