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List of motets by Johann Sebastian Bach

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bach's autograph of the motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225
Bach's autograph of the motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225

It is uncertain how many motets Johann Sebastian Bach composed, because some have been lost, and there are some doubtful attributions among the surviving ones associated with him. There is a case for regarding the six motets catalogued BWV 225–230 as being authenticated, although there is some doubt about one of them, Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden. A seventh motet, Ich lasse dich nicht, BWV Anh. 159, which was formerly attributed to Bach's older cousin Johann Christoph Bach, appears to be at least partly by Bach, and if so was probably composed during his Weimar period.

BWV 228 is another motet which appears to have been written at Weimar, between 1708 and 1717, the others were composed in Leipzig. Several of the motets were written for funerals. There is some uncertainty as to the extent that motets would have been called for in normal church services - there is evidence that it was considered an archaic form. The text of Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt, BWV Anh. 160 (whether or not the piece is attributable to Bach) suggests a performance at Christmas. Another possible use is a pedagogical one, Bach's biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel suggested that the choral writing would have been useful for training Bach's young singers, and Christoph Wolff has argued that this could apply in particular to Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied.[1]

Bach's motets are his only vocal works that kept repertoire without interruption between his death in 1750 and the 19th-century Bach Revival.[2] In the early 19th century six motets (BWV 225, 228, Anh. 159, 229, 227, 226)[3][4] were among Bach's first printed music, after the second half of the 18th century when the only vocal music by Bach that was printed were collections of his four-part chorales.[5]

BWV 225–230

BWV 28/2a (231) and 118

BWV 1083

Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, BWV 1083, after Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, is indicated as Motetto, i.e. motet, in the header of Bach's manuscript of the arrangement.[13][14]

BWV Anh. 159–165

BWV deest

Motets listed in the second chapter of the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (1998)

Legend to the table
column content
01 BWV Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (lit. 'Bach-works-catalogue'; BWV) numbers. Anhang (Annex; Anh.) numbers are indicated as follows:
  • preceded by I: in Anh. I (lost works) of BWV1 (1950 first edition of the BWV)
  • preceded by II: in Anh. II (doubtful works) of BWV1
  • preceded by III: in Anh. III (spurious works) of BWV1
  • preceded by N: new Anh. numbers in BWV2 (1990) and/or BWV2a (1998)
02 2a Section in which the composition appears in BWV2a:
  • Chapters of the main catalogue indicated by Arabic numerals (1-13)
  • Anh. sections indicated by Roman numerals (I–III)
  • Reconstructions published in the NBE indicated by "R"
03 Date Date associated with the completion of the listed version of the composition. Exact dates (e.g. for most cantatas) usually indicate the assumed date of first (public) performance. When the date is followed by an abbreviation in brackets (e.g. JSB for Johann Sebastian Bach) it indicates the date of that person's involvement with the composition as composer, scribe or publisher.
04 Name Name of the composition: if the composition is known by a German incipit, that German name is preceded by the composition type (e.g. cantata, chorale prelude, motet, ...)
05 Key Key of the composition
06 Scoring See scoring table below for the abbreviations used in this column
07 BG Bach Gesellschaft-Ausgabe (BG edition; BGA): numbers before the colon indicate the volume in that edition. After the colon an Arabic numeral indicates the page number where the score of the composition begins, while a Roman numeral indicates a description of the composition in the Vorwort (Preface) of the volume.[29]
08 NBE New Bach Edition (German: Neue Bach-Ausgabe, NBA): Roman numerals for the series, followed by a slash, and the volume number in Arabic numerals. A page number, after a colon, refers to the "Score" part of the volume. Without such page number, the composition is only described in the "Critical Commentary" part of the volume. The volumes group Bach's compositions by genre:[30]
  1. Cantatas (Vol. 1–34: church cantatas grouped by occasion; Vol. 35–40: secular cantatas; Vol. 41: Varia)
  2. Masses, Passions, Oratorios (12 volumes)
  3. Motets, Chorales, Lieder (4 volumes)
  4. Organ Works (11 volumes)
  5. Keyboard and Lute Works (14 volumes)
  6. Chamber Music (5 volumes)
  7. Orchestral Works (7 volumes)
  8. Canons, Musical Offering, Art of Fugue (3 volumes)
  9. Addenda (approximately 7 volumes)
09 Additional info may include:
  • "after" – indicating a model for the composition
  • "by" – indicating the composer of the composition (if different from Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • "in" – indicating the oldest known source for the composition
  • "pasticcio" – indicating a composition with parts of different origin
  • "see" – composition renumbered in a later edition of the BWV
  • "text" – by text author, or, in source

Provenance of standard texts and tunes, such as Lutheran hymns and their chorale melodies, Latin liturgical texts (e.g. Magnificat) and common tunes (e.g. Folia), are not usually indicated in this column. For an overview of such resources used by Bach, see individual composition articles, and overviews in, e.g., Chorale cantata (Bach)#Bach's chorale cantatas, List of chorale harmonisations by Johann Sebastian Bach#Chorale harmonisations in various collections and List of organ compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach#Chorale Preludes.

10 BD Bach Digital Work page
Legend for abbreviations in "Scoring" column
Voices (see also SATB)
a A b B s S t T v V
alto (solo part) alto (choir part) bass (solo part) bass (choir part) soprano (solo part) soprano (choir part) tenor (solo part) tenor (choir part) voice (includes parts for unspecified voices or instruments as in some canons) vocal music for unspecified voice type
Winds and battery (bold = soloist)
Bas Bel Cnt Fl Hn Ob Oba Odc Tai Tbn Tdt Tmp Tr
bassoon (can be part of Bc, see below) bell(s) (musical bells) cornett, cornettino flute (traverso, flauto dolce, piccolo, flauto basso) natural horn, corno da caccia, corno da tirarsi, lituo oboe oboe d'amore oboe da caccia taille trombone tromba da tirarsi timpani tromba (natural trumpet, clarino trumpet)
Strings and keyboard (bold = soloist)
Bc Hc Kb Lu Lw Org Str Va Vc Vdg Vl Vne
basso continuo: Vdg, Hc, Vc, Bas, Org, Vne and/or Lu harpsichord keyboard (Hc, Lw, Org or clavichord) lute, theorbo Lautenwerck (lute-harpsichord) organ (/man. = manualiter, without pedals) strings: Vl I, Vl II and Va viola(s), viola d'amore, violetta violoncello, violoncello piccolo viola da gamba violin(s), violino piccolo violone, violone grosso
Background colours
Colour Meaning
green extant or clearly documented partial or complete manuscript (copy) by Bach and/or first edition under Bach's supervision
yellow extant or clearly documented manuscript (copy) or print edition, in whole or in part, by close relative, i.e. brother (J. Christoph), wife (A. M.), son (W. F. / C. P. E. / J. C. F. / J. Christian) or son-in-law (Altnickol)
orange-brown extant or clearly documented manuscript (copy) by close friend and/or pupil (Kellner, Krebs, Kirnberger, Walther, ...), or distant family member
Motets listed in Chapter 2 of BWV2a
BWV 2a Date Name Key Scoring BG NBE Additional info BD
225 2. 1726–1727
New Year?
Motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied B♭ maj. 2SATB (+colla parte instr.?) 39: 3 III/1: 1 after Z 8244 (/2); text after Ps. 149: 1–3 (/1), by Gramann after Ps. 103 (/2), after Ps. 150: 2, 6 (/3)[31] 00282
226 2. 1729-10-20 Motet Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (funeral of Ernesti, J. H.) B♭ maj. 2SATB Str Vc 2Ob Tai Bas 39: 39, 143 III/1: 37 after Z 7445a (/2); text after Rom. 8: 26–27 (/1), by Luther (/2)[31] 00283
226/2 chorale setting "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott" (s. 3) B♭ maj.
G maj.
SATB 39: 57 III/2.1: 18
III/2.2: 38
after Z 7445a; text by Luther 11182
227 2. c. 1723–1735 Motet Jesu, meine Freude E min. SSATB (+colla parte instr.?) 39: 59 III/1: 75 after Z 8032 (odd mvts); text by Franck, J. (odd mvts), after Rom. 8: 1–2, 9–11 (even mvts)[31] 00284
chorale setting "Jesu, meine Freude" (ss. 1, 6) SATB 39: 61 III/2.1: 27
III/2.2: 156
after Z 8032; text by Franck, J. 11200
227/3 chorale setting "Jesu, meine Freude" (s. 2) SATB 39: 66 III/2.1: 28 after Z 8032; text by Franck, J. 11201
227/7 chorale setting "Jesu, meine Freude" (s. 4) SATB 39: 75 III/2.1: 22
III/2.2: 168
after Z 8032; text by Franck, J. 11202
228 2. c. 1715 Motet Fürchte dich nicht A maj. 2SATB (+colla parte instr.?) 39: 85 III/1: 105 after Z 6461 (/2); text after Is. 41: 10 (/1), 43: 1 (/2), by Gerhardt (/2)[31] 00285
229 2. before 1731–1732 Motet Komm, Jesu, komm G min. 2SATB (+colla parte instr.) 39: 107 III/1: 125 text by Thymich[31] 00286
230 2. 1723–1739? Motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden C maj. SATB Bc (+colla parte instr.?) 39: 127 III/1: 147 text after Ps. 117[31] 00287

see BWV 28/2a 00288
118.1 2. 1736–1737 Motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht (funeral) B♭ maj. SATB 2Hn Cnt 3Tbn 24: 185 III/1: 163 text by Behm; → BWV 118.2[31] 00143
118.2 2. 1746–1747 Motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht (funeral) B♭ maj. SATB 2Ob Tai Bas 2Hn Str Bc NBG 171 III/1: 171 text by Behm; after BWV 118.1[31] 11121

Publication and recording


St. Thomas School, Leipzig, appears to have kept the[which?] motets in the repertory of its Thomanerchor after Bach's death. It is documented that the choir performed Singet dem Herrn for Mozart in 1789. The director on this occasion was the Thomaskantor Johann Friedrich Doles, a pupil of Bach. The interest in Bach motets was sufficient for six of them to be printed for the first time in 1802/1803. They appeared in two volumes from the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf & Härtel. The editor is not credited on the title-page;[3] however, it has been suggested[by whom?] that the person responsible was Johann Gottfried Schicht who was active in the city as a choral and orchestral conductor.

Book I consisted of

  • Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (BWV 225)
  • Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228)
  • Ich lasse dich nicht (BWV Anh. 159)

Book II consisted of

  • Komm, Jesu, komm (BWV 229)
  • Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 227)
  • Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (BWV 228)

In 1892 the motets were published as part of the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, the first edition of the composer's complete works. The editor was Franz Wüllner, who did not accept Bach's authorship of Ich Lasse dich nicht.[32] The motet volume of the New Bach Edition (the second edition of the composer's complete works) came out in 1965. It includes O Jesu Christ, mein Lebens Licht (which had been included among the cantatas in the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe) and Lobet den Herrn. The motets were published by Carus-Verlag in 1975, edited by Günter Graulich, and again in 2003, seven compositions edited by Uwe Wolf.[33]


Most recordings of the Bach motets have been made since the Second World War. The Thomanerchor, for example, recorded a set in the 1950s.[34] However, there were several pre-War recordings of the motets. The first recording of a Bach motet was a 1927 version of Jesu Meine Freude.[35]

A single CD can contain the set of six motets BWV 220-230 plus other works. One of the decisions which needs to be made is which motets to include. Another decision is how many voices to use per part. The motets have been recorded with one voice per part by Konrad Junghänel. Most recordings deploy more than one singer per part; for example, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan use a chorus of eighteen singers.[36]


  1. ^ Wolff, Christoph. Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, p. 249 (W. W. Norton & Company 2001).
  2. ^ Spitta, Philipp (1899). Johann Sebastian Bach: His Work and Influence on the Music of Germany, 1685–1750 (Volume 2). London: Novello & Co., p. 611
  3. ^ a b Johann Gottfried Schicht, editor. Joh. Seb. Bach's Motetten in Partitur. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel. 1802 (Vol. 1: BWV 225, 228, Anh. 159); 1803 (Vol.2: BWV 229, 227, 226).
  4. ^ OCLC 18856743 at
  5. ^ Forkel, Johann Nikolaus, translated by Charles Sanford Terry (1920). Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life, Art, and Work. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe; London: Constable, p. xvii
  6. ^ Dürr & Kobayashi 1998, p. 228.
  7. ^ a b Gardiner, John Eliot. "Bach Motets" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  8. ^ a b Melamed 1995, pp. 89–97.
  9. ^ Bach Digital Work 00036 at
  10. ^ Boyd, Malcolm (1999). Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 245. ISBN 0-19-866208-4.
  11. ^ Dürr & Kobayashi 1998, p. 233.
  12. ^ Bach Digital Work 00143 at
  13. ^ "D-B 30199, Fascicle 14". Bach Digital. Leipzig: Bach Archive; et al. 2020-01-31. Cite has empty unknown parameters: |subscription=, |registration=, and |editors= (help)
  14. ^ Platen 1961, p. 35.
  15. ^ Dürr & Kobayashi 1998, p. 459.
  16. ^ Bach Digital Work 01470 at
  17. ^ Bach Digital Work 01471 at
  18. ^ Bach Digital Work 01472 at
  19. ^ Georg Gottfried Wagner: Motet Lob und Ehre und Weisheit, BWV Anh 162 at
  20. ^ Bach Digital Work 01473 at
  21. ^ BR Bruxelles Ms. II 3902 Mus. at
  22. ^ Bach Digital Work 01474 at
  23. ^ HLB Darmstadt, Mus. ms. 521/1 and HLB Darmstadt, Mus. ms. 521/2–6 at
  24. ^ Bach Digital Work 01475 at
  25. ^ HLB Darmstadt, Mus. ms. 528 at
  26. ^ Bach Digital Work 01476 at
  27. ^ Bach Digital Work 01532 at
  28. ^ Melamed 1995, pp. 148–149.
  29. ^ Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe, .../Prefaces, .../Thematic Catalogue: documentation and facsimiles at the International Music Score Library Project
  30. ^ Neue Bach-Ausgabe: documentation at the International Music Score Library Project
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h Melamed 1995, p. 102.
  32. ^ Melamed, Daniel R. “The Authorship of the Motet ‘Ich Lasse Dich Nicht’ (BWV Anh. 159).” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 41, no. 3, 1988, pp. 491–526. JSTOR, Accessed 30 Mar. 2020 (subscription required).
  33. ^ Wolf 2002, p. I.
  34. ^ "Motets / Recordings – Part 2". Bach Cantatas Website.
  35. ^ "Motets / Recordings – Part 1". Bach Cantatas Website.
  36. ^ "Bach - Motets". Bis. Retrieved 6 April 2020.


External links

This page was last edited on 12 October 2020, at 04:38
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