This section of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW) provides a comprehensive list of all the chorale melodies [hereafter referred to simply as ‘CM’s] in Bach’s oeuvre. While special emphasis has been placed upon Bach’s sacred vocal works, where the majority of these melodies are found, every effort has been made to include other instances of their appearance in his instrumental music as well. In addition, the use of any given CM by other composers, before, during, or after Bach’s time is given consideration at the end of the CM page as well.
Every effort has been made to supply links for the numerous cross references that become necessary in sorting out the vast amount of potentially confusing information regarding any specific CM which may not be listed under the expected CM name that someone might normally assume to be the correct or only one. The same is true of the frequently rather flexible connections between the chorale texts [hereafter ‘CT’s] and the CMs. A CT may be used with one or more CMs and vice versa. This means that merely knowing the name of a specific CT which Bach used will not necessarily lead directly to the melody that is being sought, nor will it lead to other uses of that CM existing under different CT names and/or titles. Likewise, finding a specific CM may easily turn up two or more different CTs that are associated with it in Bach’s works. An easier method to employ in searching for CMs on this page would be to locate elsewhere on this site a specific work such as a cantata or cantata movement where the CM occurs. Allow the link from a cantata movement, for instance, to point back to the correct entry on this page. Then it will be possible to view all the other instances when Bach uses a specific CM.
As far as it is possible, related CMs are grouped together on a single page. In the simplest form encountered, only a single CM is associated with a single CT. In such a case, knowing the name or incipit of the CT means identifying the CM as well since the marriage between CT and CM has endured unchanged from its inception until the present time. This ideal situation, unfortunately, occurs much less frequently than one would expect. Over the course of time and even during Bach’s lifetime, numerous CTs have had more than single CM attached to it or associated with it. In such instances where important CTs, having equal or nearly equal alternative CMs are found, they are presented on the same CM page rather than separating these text-related melodies which are otherwise melodically unrelated although their meters (the length and number of verse lines) are similar.
In order to identify correctly but also to demonstrate the differentiation in Bach’s use of each CM, it has been found expedient, as a matter of providing final proof and verification of each CM page and grouping, to include the notation of each CM as close to its appearance in the NBA as possible (pauses are indicated for those measures where it is not present). For the purpose of exact identification, both the Zahn and EKG numbers are given first. Then there is a short comment on the author/poet responsible for the CT. The origin and history of the CM is the main focus and early examples of the melody, whether sacred or secular, are presented whenever it is possible to locate scores for reproduction here. In numerous instances, examples from hymnals to which Bach may have had access are also provided.
The listing of Bach’s compositions containing any given CM contains important information about the specific verse or verses which were set, the year of composition, the numbers assigned in the Dietel and Breitkopf collections of 4-pt. settings, untexted, instrumental use of the CM, and a chronological collection of settings by other composers of the same CM.
For viewing the 4-pt settings or hearing them, direct links to other sites are provided.
Anyone who can provide evidence for corrections or additions to the information given on these CM pages may submit them to me in accordance with the guidelines at: How to contribute.