The Chorales of J.S. Bach

BWV: 1.6  2.6  3.6  4.8  5.7  6.6  7.7  8.6  9.7  10.7  11.6  12.7  13.6  14.5  16.6  17.7  18.5  19.7  20.7=20.11  22.5  24.6  25.6  26.6  27.6  28.6  29.8  30.6  31.9  32.6  33.6  36.4  36.8  37.6  38.6  39.7  40.3  40.6  40.8  41.6  42.7  43.11  44.7  45.7  46.6  47.5  48.3  48.7  52.6  55.5  56.5  57.8  59.3  60.5  62.6  64.2  64.4  64.8  65.2  65.7  66.6  67.4  67.7  69.6  69a.6  70.7  70.11  72.6  73.5  74.8  75.7=75.14  76.7=76.14  77.6  78.7  79.3  79.6  80.8  81.7  83.5  84.5  85.6  86.6  87.7  88.7  89.6  90.5  91.6  92.9  93.7  94.8  95.7  96.6  97.9  99.6  100.6  101.7  102.7  103.6  104.6  105.6  107.7  108.6  110.7  111.6  112.5  113.1  113.8  114.7  115.6  116.6  117.4=117.9  119.9  120.6  120a.8  121.6  122.6  123.6  124.6  125.6  126.6  127.5  128.5  129.5  130.6  133.6  135.6  136.6  137.5  139.6  140.7  144.3  144.6  145a  145.5  146.8  147.6=147.10  148.6  149.7  151.5  153.1  153.5  153.9  154.3  154.8  155.5  156.6  157.5  158.4  159.5  161.6  162.6  164.6  165.6  166.6  167.5  168.6  169.7  171.6  172.6  174.5  175.7  176.6  177.5  178.7  179.6  180.7  183.5  184.5  185.6  187.7  188.6  190.7  194.6  194.12  195.6  197.5  197.10  197a.7  226.2  227.1=227.11  227.3  227.7  229.2  244.3  244.10  244.15  244.17  244.25  244b.29  244.32  244.37  244.40  244.44  244.46  244.54  244.62  245.3  245.5  245.11  245.14  245.15  245.17  245.22  245.26  245.28  245.37  245.40  248.5  248.9  248.12  248.17  248.23  248.28  248.33  248.35  248.42  248.46  248.53  248.59  248.64  250  251  252  253  254  255  256  257  258  259  260  261  262  263  264  265  266  267  268  269  270  271  272  273  274  275  276  277  278  279  280  281  282  283  284  285  286  287  288  289  290  291  292  293  294  295  296  297  298  299  300  301  302  303  304  305  306  307  308  309  310  311  312  313  314  315  316  317  318  319  320  321  322  323  324  325  326  327  328  329  330  331  332  333  334  335  336  337  338  339  340  341  342  343  344  345  346  347  348  349  350  351  352  353  354  355  356  357  358  359  360  361  362  363  364  365  366  367  368  369  370  371  372  373  374  375  376  377  378  379  380  381  382  383  384  385  386  387  388  389  390  391  392  393  394  395  396  397  398  399  400  401  402  403  404  405  406  407  408  409  410  411  412  413  414  415  416  417  418  419  420  421  422  423  424  425  426  427  428  429  430  431  432  433  434  435  436  437  438  441  500a  1084  1089  1122  1123  1124  1125  1126  BWV deest (O Traurigkeit)

About the Chorales of J.S. Bach

The more than 400 four–part chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach have enjoyed a status of great importance since they were first composed, collected and published in the 18th century. These concise musical gems have served and continue to serve to this day as superlative models for the study of harmony and counterpoint, demonstrating an unparalleled mastery of harmony in the way the vertical (harmony) and the horizontal (melody) in music are fused into a coherent and beautiful whole. While they may not receive the scholarly attention of the polyphonic instrumental works, the chorales represent in significant ways the pinnacle of contrapuntal mastery.

That the Lutheran chorale, the Lutheran congregational church service hymn, served a central role in the life of J.S. Bach, a thoroughly Lutheran composer, is evident in the hundreds of compositions — both vocal and instrumental — based on chorale melodies. Bach’s great contribution to the Lutheran chorale tradition stems not from his own composing of chorale melodies (less than ten of the 400+ four–part chorales feature melodies that are attributed to Bach himself), but to the great skill and care with which he treated this tradition. The Grove Music Online entry on "chorale," co–written by Robert L. Marshall and Robin Leaver, puts it aptly:

J.S. Bach’s significance for the chorale is not determined by the few original melodies he evidently contributed but rather by his appropriation of the chorale in an enormous variety of instrumental and vocal compositions. His four–part chorale harmonizations in particular, which mark the culmination of the Cantionalsatz tradition, may be the most important event in the history of the chorale since the Reformation, for they conveyed a sense of the greatness of the chorale heritage to later generations and helped to inspire and influence the restoration movement in the 19th century.

Barely more than half of the 400+ four–part chorales of Bach come from extant larger choral works — the cantatas, passions, motets, and Christmas Oratorio. Nearly 200 chorales, on the other hand, have survived only by way of posthumously published chorale collections, most of which owe their survival to the Breitkopf Edition of 371 chorales edited primarily by C.P.E. Bach and first published in the 1780s. The 186 chorales in this collection that do not appear among the extant larger choral works were assigned individual Schmieder catalog numbers: BWV 253–438. Unfortunately, the Breitkopf edition provided neither texts nor any contextual information. Thus, any texts provided for these settings were only added by a later editor. (The texts provided on this site for these chorales were suggested by the 19th c. Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe (BGA) editors unless otherwise noted.) The lack of information regarding these individual chorales has led to much speculation regarding their origins, and much research remains to be done on this front.

Here is where the chorales are found in the Schmieder catalog:

BWV 1–197: The Cantatas (176 chorales)
BWV 226–229: The Motets (5 chorales)
BWV 244–245: The Passions (26 chorales)
BWV 248: The Christmas Oratorio (13 chorales)
BWV 250–252: Three Wedding Chorales (3 chorales)
BWV 253–438: Individual Chorales (186 chorales)
BWV 441, 500a, 1084, 1089, 1122-1126: Chorales later attributed to Bach (9 chorales)

The purpose of bach–chorales.com is to provide a wide array of resources for the study and enjoyment of the Bach chorales. The site is designed to benefit musicians, music theorists, historians, choral conductors, composers, teachers, students, and amateur Bach–lovers alike.



bach–chorales.com by Luke Dahn. Copyright 2017.