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Cantatas

The 209 existing Bach Cantatas constitute an enormously rich musical world. They have been recorded by various groups in various styles, starting in the mid 1940's, and they are continuing to be recorded. The cantatas are strongly connected to the other Bach's great vocal works (Passions, Masses, Oratorios, Magnificat, etc.). Some of those works, such as Christmas Oratorio or the Lutheran Masses are based on musical material originally composed for the sacred or secular cantatas.

The term Cantata did not exist prior to the 16th century, when all "cultured" music was vocal, but with the rise of instrumental music in the 17th century the term emerged as the instrumental art become sufficiently developed to be embodied in sonatas. From the middle of the 17th until late in the 18th century a favorite form of Italian chamber music was the cantata for one or two solo voices, with accompaniment of harpsichord and perhaps a few other solo instruments.

The essential point, however, in Bach's church cantatas is that they formed part of a church service. Many of Bach's greatest cantatas begin with an elaborate chorus followed by a couple of arias and recitatives, and end with a plain chorale. This has often been commented upon as an example of Bach's indifference to artistic climax in the work as a whole. But no one will maintain this who realizes the place which the church cantata occupied in the Lutheran church service.


Transcriptions by Ignac Friedman.

BWV140
The Choral, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"6:56
Bisotti, S.
BWV208
The Aria, "Schafe konnen sicher weiden"5:52
Bisotti, S.
BWV208
Sheep May Safely Graze
6:00
Bisotti, S.