Favorite Bach cantatas
Here is the promised compilation of suggested Bach cantatas for chorus,
soloists and small instrumental forces, with any non-Christmas/Advent theme.
Preceding that is information about RESEARCH TOOLS for choosing a cantata.
For programming any kind of choral work with orchestra, the following is
4720 Boston Way
Lanham Maryland 20706
(RC: Appendix A of Daniels organizes pieces by type of chorus, duration,
and size of orchestra, and then within that, composer and piece. Quite
One of the most useful reference works in this sort of search is the Werner
Neuman "Handbuch der Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs," published by
Breitkopf, and which should be available in any decent university library.
It lists all the cantatas, with performing forces required, by movement,
making the job of narrowing down your search along the rather specific
criteria you give a relatively easy task.
Associate Prof. of Music, Univ. of North Texas
Musical Director, Denton Bach Society
Musical Director, Arlington Choral Society
(RC: See the appendices in Neumann for all sorts of ways to sort the
cantatas: by soloists, by title of solo aria, by the chorale used, by
"The Cantatas of J.S. Bach: an Analytical Guide" by W. Murray Young,
published 1989 by McFarland. Prose, rather than lists like the above:
Young translates, describes, and gives his opinion of each movement of each
cantata, along with its instrumentation. It's a nice book to have
side-by-side with the indices such as Daniels or Neumann, to help get an
idea of the theme, tone and mood of each cantata.
For those who have none of the above resources available, you can always
start by looking in the New Grove "Bach, Johann Sebastian" article, whose
worklist at the end gives chorus, soloists and instrumentation for each
cantata. It's a first step at least, even though it doesn't tell you
whether the soloists are asked to sing recits, duets only, etc.
"Small forces" meant an orchestra without timpany and 3 trumpets--other
than that, the suggestions were far-ranging. What I requested was
something with an engaging chorus (other than the chorale) that a
university/community chamber chorus could sink its teeth into, and with STB
solos or some combination thereof. (I got some alto solos anyway that
people couldn't resist.)
My favorite of this type of cantata is #37, "Wer da glaubet und getauft wird"
I don't have my scores nearby, but I recall that there is an wonderful
opening chorus, a lovely SA duet, a beautiful bass recit and aria, a tenor
aria, and a final chorale. The opening chorus is one of the most joyous in
Bach, and I believe the whole thing calls for just strings and oboes.
It's been nearly 20 years since I did it, on my Master's recital under Don
Neuen when he was in Tennessee, but I have great memories of it. It is an
immediately pleasing and thoroughly satifying work, well within the scope of
a small university chorus.
Hope this helps,
Timothy Carney, D.M.A.
Music Director, O`ahu Choral Society
Artistic Director, Hawai`i International Choral Festival
Gottes Zeit ist die Allerbeste Zeit: Great male alto or high tenor solo;
also beautiful soprano solo and terrific bass solo that can be done as solo
or sectional solo. Can include a children's unison chorus on a chorale
theme sung with the soprano soloist in descant, or that chorus can be given
to women in unsion. Uses strings and flutes, if I recall correctly.
Also: Christ Lag in Todesbanden, which uses strings only, and includes
solos for tenor and bass and glorious soprano/alto and soprano/tenor
duets, plus rousing chorus sections. All solos can be done instead by
sections; that's how we did them.
Finally, "Auf dir, Herr, verlanget mich," which, if I recall correctly,
uses strings and woodwinds, but needs an excellent cellist.
We did all three of these in college and loved them tremendously.
Director, Sounding Joy!
As for a suggestion, Christ lag in Todesbanden is an amazing cantata
(bwv4), tenor, bass, soprano (actually S/T duet) solos, great first chorus,
with a challenging chorus #4 thrown in. I suggest the S/A duet - den Tod,
be done with your women as well. It's written for Easter, which would work
in the spring.
as a lover of bach i would have to reccommend cantata 4 "christ lag in
todesbanden" as a great introduction to bach cantatas. there are two great
choruses and a chorale as well as a sinfonia, that would fit your
resources. the arias also are wonderful. they call for satb soloists, but
the alto appears only once in a duet with soprano that is not too
challenging. the text too is appropriate for spring- as it is an easter
it is certainly one of my favorites.
hope this helps,
assistant conductor of choirs
wilfrid laurier university
Had a wonderful experience last spring doing Cantata
#4 - Christ Lag in Todesbanden with our Community
College Chamber Choir. Includes Soprano duet, Tenor
solo, Bass solo, and Tenor/soprano duet and three
choruses, the last one being the chorale itself. No
winds in the orchestration.
School for Music Vocations Choirs
Although this 'cantata"' is really just a single movement SATB piece, it
might be programmed with a larger work which contains your wish for soli. It
is non-seasonal but we tend use it during the Lenten season. It only runs
about 4 minutes and offers wonderful, but not difficult, contrapuntal vocal
lines over a very moving instrumental rhythmic ostinato.
The edition I use allows either wind/brass (2 flute, oboe or clarinet,
Flugelhorn or trumpet, Horn in F, or Trombone, Tuba or Bass Tromb) or string
accompaniment. Accompaniment also carries organ registration suggestions,
which makes it ideal for almost any setting on any program where
accompaniment is a factor in repertoire selection.
This is the piece I used to introduce Bach to my high school groups and
appears as a grade 6 piece on our contest list. It is in German but an
English text is available.
Performance accompaniment may be rented from publisher.
Motet - BWV 118: "O Jesu Christ, Meins Lebens Licht"
Theodore Presser 312-41571 ed. Robert Ross $1.50 (in 1998)
If you are unable to find the cantata which has all you need but still has
an 'engaging' chorus', this gem might provide that for you.
Cindy Pribble prb(a)vnet.net
One of my favorites--very accessible--is #12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen,
Sagen, though it's been some years since I've done it. There are a couple
of non-chorale choruses, one of which was the original music Bach used for
the Crucifixus in his Bminor Mass.
One of my favorites is #131 Aus der Tiefe. It is an earlier cantata and
somewhat through-composed. It has 3 choral mvts. as well as 1 bass solo
(with sop. chorale underneath) and one tenor solo (with alto chorale
underneath.) Instrumentation is strings, (1 V 2 VLA,VC, BC) oboe and also
bassoon, I believe.) It takes 20-24 minutes depending on tempi selected.
To safisfy your sop soloist, you could then do the SB duet with oboe and
continuo from # 140 (Mein Freund is Mein.)
We are doing an all-Bach concert on March 26 and we will be doing the above
plus additional works including the Sheep May Safely Graze chorale with my
older children's choir accompanied by 2 flutes (recorders?).
Hope this helps.
Church of the Saviour (UM)
2537 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
140 Wachet Auf is often considered Advent but also can be used in the
or Second Coming themes. It has STB solos with only a rect.for tenor.
wonderful SB duet. Ususally the familiar chorale prelude is done with the
tenor section. As far as the orchestration goes, we did it with strings and
continuo only, however.
Jonathan Veenker j-veenker(a)bethel.edu
Associate Professor of Music office-612/638-6385
Bethel College fax- 612/638-6001
St. Paul, MN 55112
One of the cantatas you might look at is 182, Himmelskoenig, sei willkommen.
Unfortunately for your solo breakdown, it is ATB. But the three choruses
are very attractive, and relatively easy to learn although they look
demanding technically. Scored for strings and recorder as I recall.
Another with recorder *and* with STB soloists is 106, Gottes Zeit ist die
allerbeste Zeit, absolutely beautiful work, also requires good violas and
celli. The chorus parts are more varied and in one case more difficult.
The first that comes to mind is the trustworthy BWV 4, "Christ lag in
BWV 150 "Nach dir Herr, verlanget mich" (although I don't remember the
exact orchestration or solo requirements off the top of my head) is a
terrific and very accessible piece.
BWV 131 GREAT early cantata "Aus der Tiefe rufe ich,"
It is unfortunate that it can not be Advent, in which case you could do BWV
61 "Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland" which is the most accesible of all the
cantatas, I think, and really terrific.
I think (not sure) there was an article (by Richard Bloesch at U. Iowa)
about Bach cantatas that use limited forces in the Choral Journal a few
years ago. If there is not article, you could definately contact Richard
Bloesch at U. Iowa (319) 335 1603, because I know he has done a
presentation on the topic.
Southeastern Louisiana University
Take a look at Cantata 150: "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich." The solos can
be performed by sections if necessary. I did this with a good chamber choir
of 45. It's a very expressive piece. If you can get a bassoon, it works
nicely as one of the continuo instruments.
Kirin Nielsen, DMA
How about No. 106 "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" I have sung this
with a chamber choir and it is engaging. It is scored for two recorders and
2 viola da gamba but I have done it with flutes and violas and it works
Douglas L. Jones
I'm not at school, so I can't vouch for the instrumentation (except I
believe it may include a single obbligato D trumpet) but one of my favorites
is "Gottes Zeit ist der Allerbeste Zeit". General theme, great SB duet,
some lovely choruses.
Patricia Romza, DMA
St. Michael's College, Box 131
One Winooski Park
Colchester, VT 05439
I recently did one of the Easter Cantatas, BWV 66, "Erfreut euch, ihr
Herzen." Here are some of the specifications:
1) great solos for bass, tenor and alto. The alto is duetting with tenor,
and there is some rather expressive recit for her, so that might put this
out of the running, .... also no soprano solos.
2) Opening chorus is a kick!! No umlauts, so a lack of experience with the
language should not impede the pronunciation. There is a trumpet soloist
needed for this movement (a really good soloist!), but that's the only one
of the five that needs brass at
3) Great wind and string colors throughout. The texts are magnificent.
4) I would definitely use baroque tuning, even if you are using modern
instruments; otherwise, the sopranos in the chorus will go on strike - -
high A's all over the place in the first movement.
There is a Lutheran church in Manhattan that regularly performs the
cantatas - - of course I don't remember the name of the church! Maybe they
would have a website?
Good luck - - the cantatas are worth doing!
Mary M. Hoffman
Director of Children's Music and
Assistant Director of Music
Peachtree Presbyterian Church
3434 Roswell Road NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30363
"Der Herr denket an uns" is an excellent choice! The tenor-bass duo works
beautifully when sung by both sections. It gives the choir a good
workout, but is fun to learn.
Dr. John Jost
Director of Choral Activities
Peoria, IL 61625
Jesu der du meine Seele wins in my book, but you need a good mezzo for the SA
duet, or another soprano.
Finally, forwarded from Pat Maimone:
>The new Haenssler edition of the complete works of JSB - 160CDs worth -
>put out a sampler disc for under AUS$10. Together with this comes a
>substantial booklet of 256 pages. The first 123 pages gives a
>of JSB from his birth in 1685 through to his death in 1750 & then to
>significant dates beyond. Pages 124 to the end give the complete BWV
>catalogue - indicating the volume no. of the CD - from BWV 1 to 1087.
>comes the best bit: the German title of every cantata and chorale is
>translated into English. Oh joy, oh bliss. This is a godsend for a
>non-German speaker like myself, and perhaps for many others out there.
>What a valuable and inexpensive little volume!
>The Hanssler website is http://www.haenssler.de/klassik
Many thanks to all who responded! Enjoy your Bach year.
University of California, Riverside
I would like to add the following reference to the list provided by
Ruth Charloff of sources concerning, in her words, "Bach cantatas for
chorus, soloists and small instrumental forces." In 1984 I published
a short book with University Press of America that provided just such
a list. I assume it is now out-of-print (since I have not heard from
the publisher in years), but I still have a few copies, if anyone is
interested. The book not only selects the cantatas fitting the above
criteria but also provides specific information about editions of
each such cantata and some other relevant goodies. The only caveat is
that a reader should always check the Carus and Haenssler catalogs
for editions published after by book was printed. I'll quote the
bibligraphical details below, for some libraries might have it. I
know some individuls around the country do, for several copies of
it were sold at ACDA conventions in the past years. The source:
William J. Bullock, "Bach Cantatas Requiring Limited Resources: A
Guide to Editions" (Lanham: University Press of America, 1984), 49
Dr. William J. Bullock (Bill)
Schwob Department of Music
Columbus State University
4225 University Avenue
Columbus, GA 31907-5645
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