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Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works




Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works according to Performance Dates

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 11, 2003):
Following requests from members of the Bach Lists and occasional visitors at the Bach Cantatas Website, I added a page which lists all Bach's Vocal Works (Cantatas, Oratorios, Motets, Passions, etc.) according to their performance date by J.S. Bach. That means that works which were performed by Bach several times have duplicate entries in the list.

From the line of each work there is a link to its page at the Bach Cantatas
There are links to this page from the following pages:
Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas:
Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works:
Lutheran Church Year:

I hope you will find the list useful.
If you find any inaccuracies or missing data in this page, do not hesitate to inform me right away.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Great work! <snip>

Barry Murray wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Your Bach Cantatas page is such an indispensable source of information. One can only imagine how much work and effort you have devoted to this project.


Bob Henderson wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] So Much thanks for the formidable task which you have accomplished in the content of this site. No need for the instrumental works. Even if you had the time. Some one else can do it in time if so inclined. But what are we to do when the current cycle is exausted? I have my own opinion but hope that others will become involved in the future of the site. How do you see the site developing after the current cycle is finished?

Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works - Update

Aryeh Oron
wrote (March 19, 2005):
Since we are discussing the cantatas in chronological order, it seems to me about the time to update the page of Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works. Furthermore, the BCW exceeded recently the amazing number of 7,000 daily visits. The BCW has become a source of reference, and it is very important to me that the info presented would be as accurate as possible.

Thomas Braatz, equipped with the most recent sources (a list of which is included in the page), was very kind in helping me building the revised and updated page.
You can see the results at:

Some important comments:

a. The information is based mainly upon Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach (by Malcolm Boyd), but that it has been updated and corrected where necessary in order to represent the results of ongoing Bach scholarship.

b. Concerning actual performance dates given. In a rather small number of instances there is more concrete evidence for the performance in the form of cantata text booklets printed for use by the church congregation. These (there are only a few of these booklets extant) booklets not only give specific dates of the cantatas performed, but also indicate in which church and for which church service (time of day) they were to be performed. Somewhat less reliable is an actual date, which Bach had written on the completed score. This simply indicates the date of completion, not necessarily the actual date of performance. Frequently the liturgical Sunday or holiday is marked on the cover containing the score and original parts and/or it is marked at the top of the 1st page of the score. Without any date indicated on the score or parts, it still must be determined where it may have been performed (Weimar, Leipzig, etc.) and which year such a performance may have taken place. For this it is crucial to determine as closely and correctly as possible:
1 specific watermarks of the paper that was used
2. which copyists were used for copying out the parts
3. changes in the style of handwriting of Bach and the copyists
A repeat performance of any of Bach’s cantatas can not be excluded even if there is no indication of such in the above list. Such an unlisted repeat performance of a cantata is probable but no specific evidence can be found to substantiate it as yet.

c. The absence of indications that many cantatas did not have a repeat performance does not imply that no further performances had taken place. This only means that no documentation (changes/additions in the score and original parts, historical evidence from published cantata text booklets or newspaper accounts) is available. Without such evidence there is no basis upon which to conjecture even a general 5 or 10 year period in which such a repeat performance may have taken place.

d. To put it another way: additional cantata performances after the 1st performance are likely, but the lack of evidence does not even allow any speculation as to when such performances may have taken place. The NBA KBs usually express this situation succinctly as follows: “Spätere Wiederholungen sind anzunehmen, aber nicht belegt” [“Later repeat performances can be assumed, but are not/{can not be} documented.”]

e. Another important point: rarely does Bach ever perform a work a second time without making a few changes or additions. This is usually reflected in the parts if they are available as they usually offer the best evidence of a repeat performance. The loss of the original parts is a severe setback for determining when repeat performances may have taken place.

f. No attempt has been made to link parodies. From a non-textual, solely musical standpoint, some cantatas (and more often, of course, individual mvts.) are not really 1st performances of the music even if they are so listed chronologically.

It was instructive for both Tom and me to go through this process of careful examination. We believe this list can be very instructive when noting all the repeat performances. Now anyone who looking at this page will be able to see at a glance the associations of various groups/types of works and the development of Bach as a composer of vocal works.

I hope you will find the revised page of Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works useful.

Any correction/addition/suggestion for improvement would be most welcome.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (March 19, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron & Thomas Braatz] Thank you very much Aryeh and Thomas!

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 20, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] There are still some deficiencies:

1.) Good Friday between 1710 and 1713: Weimarer Fassung der Pasticcio des Keisers/Bruhnss Markuspassion.

2.) Good Friday 1717 (Gotha): Weimarer-Passion

3.) Good Friday 1747/1748: Zweiter Leipziger Fassung der Pasticcio des Keisers/Bruhnss Markuspassion.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 20, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] Another addition:

Good Friday 1728: Johannespassion (BWV 245) Version III (which was also repeated on Good Friday 1732).

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 20, 2005):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: >>Good Friday 1728: Johannespassion (BWV 245) Version III (which was also repeated on Good Friday 1732).<<
See p. 295 of C. Wolff's "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" [Norton, 2000] where it becomes clear that the 1728 date is highly conjectural and based upon outdated research (the table has a footnote pointing to A. Glöckner's article from 1977.) There are more recent references listed in the sources given on the BCW website-page of chronology which do not confirm this conjecture since nothing has turned up in the intervening years to confirm what is simply a conjecture without further supporting evidence.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 21, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] You might also want to tell that to the poeple that put together the liner notes for Helmuth Ri's recordings of the Johannespassion (BWV 245).

John Pike wrote (March 21, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron & Thomas Braatz] Many thanks to you both for what must have been a mammoth undertaking.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 21, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] They may also have relied too much on outdated information. I have located another supposedly recent assertion that the 3rd version of the Bach's Johannespassion (BWV 245) was performed in 1728 at St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig. "The New Bach Reader," ed. David, Mendel, and more recently C. Wolff [Norton, 1998] on p. 115 (item 114) lists Rost's diary entries of the Passion performances in Leipzig from 1722-1738. The presentation of the documents in this book leave much to be desired and lack absolutely necessary information that should have been included in extensive footnotes which are either extremely skimpy or non-existent. Wolff indicates elsewhere that the reader will have to look up the evidence elsewhere; but none of the sources listed in the bibliography specifically point to what might be considered real 'evidence provided by the extant sources.' The casual, interested reader of the New Bach Reader is left in the dark and is simply asked to believe what is presented as if it were fact and not simply an educated guess by someone like Andreas Glöckner in 1977, a conjecture that has not been confirmed in the meantime by all the major sources upon which Bach scholars have come to rely (they are listed at the end of Aryeh's Chronological Listing on the BCW.)

It is misleading indeed to see Rost's entry for 1728 filled in (with brackets which the unsuspecting reader might overlook) with the specific composition [St. John Passion, BWV 245] as if this were confirmed by 'extant sources' which it is not at the present time. As in the Wolff's TLM [The Learned Musician] Bach biography (p. 295)], the author has relied upon outdated conjectures which have long since been examined and found to be deficient since there is no extant evidence supporting such a conjecture.

The liner-note writers are probably not as careful about ascertaining the validity of an assertion (such as the one that Version III of the Johannespassion (BWV 245) of Bach was performed in 1728.) Rost's entry (hard evidence from Bach's Leipzig period,) does not even specify which Passion was performed by naming it specifically. What they are faced with on a source such as The New Bach Reader on p. 115, is a mixture of fact and fiction without knowing which is which. There is, for instance, a wealth of hard evidence for the performance of the SMP BWV 244 at St. Thomas's in 1736 although Rost has not indicated anything there either. Based upon the correct listing of the latter, a reader would naturally assume that the same would be true for the SJP entry for 1728 which is listed the same way. This natural assumption, however, would be wrong.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 22, 2005):
Aryeh Oron wrote: < Since we are discussing the cantatas in chronological order, it seems to me about the time to update the page of Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works. Furthermore, the BCW exceeded recently the amazing number of 7,000 daily visits. The BCW has become a source of reference, and it is very important to me that the info presented would be as accurate as possible. >
Considering the fact that the list has no 19 year old girl pop idols, 7,000 hits is amazing. Hats off to Aryeh and Mr. Braatz: I can't imagine anthing out there that will better help music lovers to meet and learn more about Kantatawelt. Talk about a labor of love in a splendid cause.

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Last update: ýMarch 22, 2005 ý09:54:05