Bach’s Compositional Output


280 sacred cantatas (200 have survived) 30 secular cantatas for royal birthdays, marriages, civic occasions, ceremonies Mostly composed during first few years in Leipzig Drew on 3 different sources for cantata texts:
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1. biblical passages to be read in church 2. Chorale text associated with that particular day 3. new poetic interpretations of sentiments consistent with that particular day

Cantatas cont.

Typically they drew on all three sources Bach considered himself an interpreter of the sacred word using music to convey the spiritual meaning of any given text


Music for the Holy Week Wrote 5 different setting of the Passion but only those of St. Matthew and St. John have survived Enormous works featuring narrator, characters performing chorales, recitatives, and arias

Mass and Motets

Wrote 7 motets for a cappella chorus Written on commission for special occasions, mostly funerals Also wrote several mass settings

Orchestral Music

Six concerti grossi (Concerto Grosso, sing.) dedicated to Margrave of Brandenburg “Brandenburg Concertos”

Organ Music

Generally made clear distinction between Harpsichord and Organ music Organ:

Chorale preludes, toccatas, preludes and fugues, trios, and solo concertos

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