Introduction to Bach Cantata Analyses (Annotated Scores for Download)

See subpages for cantata scores.

Note: The scores may not preview correctly in all respects, especially on a mobile device, as they were created using the comments feature of Adobe Acrobat. However, downloading them should work.

Additional scores will be added periodically and current scores are updated from time to time. Please check back to get the most recent versions.

Since Bach’s compositional choices arose from ideas and images in the cantata texts, the musical analyses offered here should be studied in conjunction with word-for-word translations such as those in my Handbook to Bach’s Sacred Cantata Texts (which also provides a guide to biblical allusions suggested by the librettos in the holistic context of each day’s liturgical scriptures) or the historically informed translations at

To understand the literary thrust of a cantata, it is important to familiarize oneself with the Gospel reading for the day in question, since it almost invariably provided the theme for the cantata and sermon that followed sequentially in the liturgy. These scriptures provide the lens through which the texts were received in Bach’s day. For this reason, citations for both Epistle and Gospel readings appear at the beginning of each score.

The cantatas are presented in order of their BWV catalogue numbers. However, since these Bach Werke Verzeichnis numbers were assigned in the nineteenth century before a reliable chronology had been established, readers may wish to consult my article introducing Bach’s cantatas in their historical and biographical context (below).

The underlying scores are vocal-piano scores based on the Bach Gesellschaft (collected) edition. These are more compact and more easily played than full scores and are in the universal public domain. While some emendations arising from more recent scholarship have been indicated, no systematic checking was done (e.g., comprehensive comparisons with the Neue Bach Ausgabe—the new collected edition). Nevertheless, salient observations about the reasons for Bach’s musical choices will generally hold true. Readers are encouraged to send corrections to [email protected].

Click here to download a zip file of all scores (as of April 27, 2024). This file will be updated periodically.

Click here for a site dealing with all aspects of Bach’s cantatatas.

Click here for a listener and student guide to the Bach cantatas by Julian Mincham.

Click here for a guide to Bach cantata texts and instrumentations by Walter Bischof.

Click here for a site providing historically informed translations of Bach’s cantata texts by Michael Marissen and Daniel Melamed.

Click here for digital reproductions of works by J. S. Bach.

Click here for a comprehensive Bach bibliography by Yo Tomita.