Church cantatas of Bach's third to fifth year in Leipzig

On Trinity Sunday 27 May 1725 Johann Sebastian Bach had presented the last cantata of his second cantata cycle, the cycle which coincided with his second year in Leipzig. As director musices of the principal churches in Leipzig he presented a variety of cantatas over the next three years. New cantatas for occasions of the liturgical year composed in this period, except for a few in the chorale cantata format, are known as Bach's third cantata cycle. His next cycle of church cantatas, the Picander cycle, did not start before St. John's Day 24 June 1728.

Bach's autograph of the start (sinfonia) of Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39, the cantata for the first Sunday after Trinity in 1726, which is the first cantata of his fourth year in Leipzig, composed halfway through his third cycle

Sacred music of this period by Bach which doesn't belong to a cantata cycle includes council election cantatas, Passion music for Good Friday, and music for weddings and funerals.

Annually returning servicesEdit

Johann Sebastian Bach

After Trinity of 1725 Johann Sebastian Bach began a third annual cycle, but with less consistency than the previous two.[1] The oldest extant cantata of the third cycle was composed for the ninth Sunday after Trinity 1725. The third cycle cantata for the first Sunday after Trinity was only composed in 1726. The cycle extends over several years.[2] The cantatas from 1727 have however also been termed as "between the third and the fourth cycles".[3]

There are 35 extant cantatas of the third cantata cycle, for a period with around 170 occasions. For about half of the other occasions a few new chorale cantatas by Bach (retrospectively added to the chorale cantata cycle), restagings of older compositions or presentations of works by other composers are known. Bach had acquired a cycle of cantatas by his second cousin Johann Ludwig Bach of Meiningen.[4] Together with his assistants he provided performance material for at least 18 of these cantatas, for which the Leipzig premieres are known, from Purification (2 February) to Trinity XIII (15 September) 1726.

Johann Sebastian Bach's compositions have a number according to the BWV catalogue, while Johann Ludwig Bach's have a JLB number. Through an erroneous attribution to the former the cantata Denn du wirst meine Seele nicht in der Hölle lassen, JLB 21, is also known by a BWV number. The version of the St Mark Passion attributed to Keiser which Bach presented on Good Friday 1726, including the chorale harmonisations BWV 500a and 1084, is indicated by a Bach Compendium (BC) number. Known works staged under Bach's directorate can in most cases also be indicated by a Bach Digital Work (BDW) number provided by the Bach-digital website.

As far as extant, Bach's third cantata cycle covers 35 of the 64 occasions of an "ideal" Leipzig cantata cycle:[5][6]

Historians of music studying the cycle have noted a greater use of solo organ parts, speculated to have been played by Bach or his son, a wide range of texts and movements apparently borrowed from previous instrumental works.[2][4][5]

Alternatively, Bach's third cycle is described as starting with the Christmas season of 1725, running, with inclusion of the 18 JLB cantatas, for a liturgical year, and thus ending before Advent of 1726. In that format, the cycle covers over 40 occasions:[7]

Very little is known about the cantatas for recurring occasions in the year preceding the fourth cantata cycle, at least there is no new composition extant that with certainty can be attributed to the period from Trinity I 1727 to the start of that next cycle.

J. S. Bach's 3rd, 4th and 5th year as director musices in Leipzig
Occasion 1725–26 1726–27 1727–28 J. S. Bach's third cycle
Trinity I 3 June 23 June: BWV 39 15 June Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot
Trinity II 10 June: BWV 76I?[a] 30 June 22 June
Trinity III 17 June: BDW 01669[b] 7 July 29 June (BDW 1669: early version of BWV 177?)[c]
St. John's Day 24 June: BDW 01673[b] 24 June: JLB 17 24 June
Trinity IV (24 June=St. John's D.) 14 July 6 July
Trinity V 1 July: BDW 11069[b] 21 July: BWV 88 13 July Siehe, ich will viel Fischer aussenden
Visitation 2 July: BDW 01672[b] 2 July: JLB 13 2 July
Trinity VI 8 July: BDW 01670[b] 28 July: BWV 170, JLB 7 20 July Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust
Trinity VII 15 Jul.: BWV Anh. 1/209?[d] 4 August: BWV 187 27 July Es wartet alles auf dich
Trinity VIII 22 July 11 August: BWV 45 3 August Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist
Trinity IX 29 July: BWV 168 18 August 10 August Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort
Trinity X 5 August 25 August: BWV 102 17 August Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben
Trinity XI 12 August 1 September: JLB 15 24 August
Trinity XII 19 August: BWV 137[c] 8 September: BWV 35 31 August: BWV 69a[a] Geist und Seele wird verwirret
Trinity XIII 26 August: BWV 164 15 September: JLB 16 7 September Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet
New Council 27 August: BWV Anh. 4 26 August 25 August: BWV 193? (Ratswechsel cantata not part of the cycle)
Trinity XIV 2 September 22 September: BWV 17 14 September Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich
Trinity XV 9 Sept.: BWV Anh. 209?[27] (29 September=Michaelmas) 21 September
Trinity XVI 16 Sept.: BWV 161[a][27] 6 October: BWV 27 28 September Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?
Trinity XVII 23 September 13 October: BWV 47 5 October Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden
Michaelmas 29 September 29 September: BWV 19 29 September Es erhub sich ein Streit
Trinity XVIII 30 September 20 October: BWV 169 12 October Gott soll allein mein Herze haben
Trinity XIX 7 October 27 October: BWV 56 19 October Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen
Trinity XX 14 October 3 November: BWV 49 26 October Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen
Trinity XXI 21 October 10 November: BWV 98 2 November Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
Trinity XXII 28 October 17 November: BWV 55 9 November Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht
Reformation D. 31 October: BWV 79 31 October 31 October Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild
Trinity XXIII 4 November 24 November: BWV 52 16 November Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht
Trinity XXIV 11 November 23 November
Trinity XXV 18 November
Trinity XXVI 25 November
Trinity XXVII
Advent I 2 December 1 December BWV 36?[e] 30 Nov. BWV 36?[e]
Christmas 25 December: BWV 110 25 December 25 December Unser Mund sei voll Lachens
Christmas 2 26 December: BWV 57 26 December 26 December Selig ist der Mann
Christmas 3 27 December: BWV 151 27 December 27 December Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt
Christmas I 30 December: BWV 28 29 December: BWV 152[a][27] 28 December Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende
New Year 1 January: BWV 16 1 January 1 January Herr Gott, dich loben wir
New Year I 5 January: BWV 58 4 January Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid
Epiphany 6 January 6 January 6 January
Epiphany I 13 January: BWV 32 12 January 11 January Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen
Epiphany II 20 January: BWV 13 19 January 18 January Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen
Epiphany III 27 January: BWV 72 26 January Alles nur nach Gottes Willen
Purification 2 February: JLB 9 2 Febr.: BWV 82, BWV 83[a] 2 February: BWV 157?[a] Ich habe genug
Epiphany IV 3 February: JLB 1 (2 February=Purification)
Epiphany V 10 February: JLB 2
Epiphany VI
Septuagesima 17 February: JLB 3 9 February: BWV 84 25 January Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
Sexagesima 24 February: JLB 4 16 February 1 February
Estomihi 3 March: JLB 5 23 February 8 February: BWV 23[a]
Annunciation 25 March 25 March (25 March→Palm Sund.)
Palm Sunday 14 April: — 6 April: — 21 March: BWV 182[f]
Good Friday 19 April: BC D 5b 11 April: BWV 244b? 26 March: BWV 245?[a] (Passion presentation not part of the cycle)
Easter 21 April: JLB 21 (=BWV 15) 13 April 28 March
Easter 2 22 April: JLB 10 14 April 29 March
Easter 3 23 April: JLB 11 15 April 30 March
Easter I 28 April: JLB 6 20 April 4 April
Easter II 5 May: JLB 12 27 April 11 April
Easter III 12 May: JLB 8, BWV 146? 4 May 18 April: BWV 146? Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal
Easter IV 19 May: JLB 14 11 May 25 April
Easter V 26 May 18 May 2 May
Ascension 30 May: BWV 43 22 May 6 May Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen
Ascension I 2 June 25 May 9 May
Pentecost 9 June 1 June: BWV 34 16 May O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe
Pentecost 1 10 June 2 June: BWV 173 17 May Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut
Pentecost 2 11 June 3 June: BWV 184[f] 18 May
Trinity 16 June: BWV 194[f] 8 June: BWV 129[c] 25 May


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Older composition possibly restaged on this day
  2. ^ a b c d e Possibly by Telemann, only text extant in Texte Zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music, Auf den Dritten Sonntag nach Trinitatis, Das Fest Johannis des Täufers, Ingleichen Den fünfften Sonntag Trinitatis, Das Fest der Heimsuchung Mariä, Und Den sechsten Sonntag Trinitatis. Leipzig: Immanuel Tietzen (1725)
  3. ^ a b c Chorale cantata adopted into the chorale cantata cycle
  4. ^ BWV Anh. 1: lost, mentioned in a 1770 catalogue by Breitkopf, possibly identical to TWV 1:617 (or 616?)[25]
    BWV Anh. 209: lost, a Trinity VII cantata probably composed before 6 February 1727, when it was reused for a funeral service[26]
  5. ^ a b Early version of BWV 36 first performed between 1725 and 1730. The later version of this cantata (1731) is better documented, and is assigned to the period after the Picander cycle[4]
  6. ^ a b c Restaging of an older composition

Other occasionsEdit

Apart from secular cantatas Bach composed in his third to fifth year in Leipzig (BWV 205, Anh. 196, 36a, 249b, 207, 204, Anh. 9, 193a, 198 and 216) also a few cantatas for liturgical occasions likely originated in this period:

Also the motet for New Year Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225, would have been first performed in this period.


Johannes Agricola

The librettos of the church cantatas presented for the first time in Leipzig during Bach's third to fifth year in that city have a diverse origin.[4] The most substantial group of librettos with a similar structure derives from a 1704 cycle of cantata texts printed in Meiningen, which was used for most of the cantatas presented in the liturgical year 1725–26.[28] In 1728 many of the librettos of cantatas associated with Bach's third to fifth year in Leipzig were grouped in a single publication by Christoph Birkmann.[27][29]

Trinity III to Trinity VII 1725Edit

Erdmann Neumeister

A booklet printed in 1725, with the cantata texts from Trinity III to Trinity VI, was recovered in 1971.[30] The period covered by the booklet included the feasts of St. John and Visitation:

  • Trinity III, 17 June 1725: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BDW 01669 – the text is Johannes Agricola's 16th-century hymn with the same name. In 1732 Bach composed a per omnes versus chorale cantata with exactly the same text, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 177, for Trinity IV, a cantata that was added to the chorale cantata cycle. Possibly BDW 1669 was an early version of that cantata.[27]
  • St. John's Day, 24 June 1725 (coinciding with the fourth Sunday after Trinity): Gelobet sei der Herr, BDW 01673 – a text by Erdmann Neumeister, from a libretto cycle published in 1711.[31]
  • Trinity V, 1 July 1725: Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe, BDW 11069 – also by Neumeister (1711 cycle).[31]
  • Feast of Visitation, 2 July 1725: Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn, BDW 01672 – Magnificat paraphrase by Maria Aurora von Königsmarck.[27]
  • Trinity VI, 8 July 1725: Wer sich rächet, an dem wird sich der Herr wieder rächen, BDW 01670 – text from Neumeister's 1711 cycle.[31]

The musical settings of these librettos as performed in Leipzig on these days have not been recovered. A Trinity VII cantata, only known by its title,[32] is presumed to have been the cantata for the next Sunday,

It is not certain Bach composed any of the cantatas from Trinity III to Trinity VII 1725. Georg Philipp Telemann has been suggested as their possible composer: he had set all cantata librettos of Neumeister's 1711 cycle, and for the Trinity VII cantata there are two known Telemann cantatas that have the same title (TWV 1:617 and 616).[4][25]

Trinity IX to Trinity XIII 1725Edit

Frontispiece of Picander's Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Vol. 3, published in 1732, which on pp. 108–110 contains a reprint of the reworked version of the libretto of cantata BWV 84

The ninth Sunday after Trinity is the first occasion with an extant new cantata by J. S. Bach after Trinity 1725:

The next extant cantata is for the 12th Sunday after Trinity:

The next Sunday Bach sets again a text by Franck:


The sacred cantata for the next occasion, Council Election (Ratswahl), does not belong to any cycle. Its libretto was published in 1725:

In this period Bach relied on Picander for the librettos of several of his secular cantatas, but also for a few more church cantatas:

Other early versions of librettos that were adopted by Picander in his 1728–29 cycle may have been set by Bach in 1727. Recent recovery of a copy of Birkmann's 1728 libretto cycle seems to suggest Welt, behalte du das Deine and Ich kann mich besser nicht versorgen for the first and the second Sunday after Easter respectively.[27]

Lehms' cycle of 1711Edit

Georg Christian Lehms (1715)

A cantata with a libretto from a cycle by Georg Christian Lehms, published as Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer in 1711, may have been presented on the 15th Sunday after Trinity 1725:[37]

  • Trinity XV, 9 September 1725: Liebster Gott, vergißt du mich, BWV Anh. 209? – Music lost. In Lehms' cycle the cantata text was assigned to Trinity VII. However, since Birkmann published the cantata libretto for Trinity XV, that Sunday of 1725 is the more likely date of the cantata's first performance. Later the cantata was combined with BWV 157 for a funeral cantata performed in Pomßen (6 February 1727, see above).[27]

From Christmas 1725 to the second Sunday after Trinity 1726 Bach drew most of his cantata librettos from Lehms' 1711 libretto cycle:[4]

In the Post Trinitatem season of 1726 there are two further cantatas from Lehms' 1711 cycle:[4]

Other cantatas between Council Election 1725 and Purification 1726Edit

Ernst Ludwig I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, c.1710

Trinity XVII may have seen the performance of another cantata on a libretto by Franck:[27]

  • Trinity XVII, 23 September 1725: Seht, so ist die falsche Welt

From Council Election to the Christmas season of 1725 there is only one further cantata extant:

The cantata for the Sunday between Christmas 1725 and New Year 1726 has a libretto drawn from Erdman Neumeister's fourth cycle:[4]

The cantata for the third Sunday after Epiphany 1726 has a libretto from Salomon Franck's Evangelisches Andachts=Opffer:[33][4]

Libretto cycle published in MeiningenEdit

Johann Ludwig Bach

In 1704 a cycle of cantata texts was published anonymously in Meiningen, under the title Sonn- und Fest-Andachten. Its third edition appeared under the title Sonntags- Und Fest-Andachten in 1719. Bach scholars have suggested that Ernst Ludwig I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, Johann Ludwig Bach's employer, might have been the author of these librettos. The librettos follow a strict format, in two variants. The short form applies to most of the cantatas:[4][28]

The build is symmetrical around the central New Testament section. The long form has a strophic poem instead of the Aria and Recitative after the New Testament section. When the cantata is split in two parts, as was customary in Leipzig, the split was usually after the third item, so that both parts started with a prose dictum (all other sections being versified). The 18 cantatas by Johann Ludwig Bach that were performed in Leipzig from Purification to Trinity XIII 1726 had a libretto from this cycle, as well as seven of the cantatas composed by Johann Sebastian Bach which were presented for the first time from Ascension to Trinity XIV 1726. Six of the extant cantatas of the latter used the short form, only the first one, for Ascension, has a libretto in the long form.[4]

Further cantatas with a libretto from the Meiningen cycle may have been presented in Leipzig in 1726, for instance on the fourth and the ninth Sundays after Trinity.[27] In chronological order:

For cantatas not belonging to the Meiningen libretto cycle, performed on the sixth and twelfth Sunday after Trinity 1726, see above in the section on Lehms' cycle of 1711. J. S. Bach's cantata for Trinity VI (with Lehms' libretto) was a short solo cantata. J. L. Bach's cantata for the same day, on a Meiningen libretto, required a chorus only for its last movement. Probably this cantata wasn't split: one of the two cantatas for this Sunday in 1726 was sung as part I, and the other as part II.

Easter III 1726 or 1728Edit

Michaelmas to Trinity XVII 1726Edit

  • St. Michael's Day: BWV 19 → Picander
  • Trinity XVI: BWV 27 → Neumeister
  • Trinity XVII: BWV 47 → Helbig

Birkmann cantatasEdit

Septuagesima to Pentecost Monday 1727Edit


  1. ^ Basso 1983, pp. 355ff.
  2. ^ a b Jones 2013, pp. 168–180
  3. ^ Shabalina 2009
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dürr/Jones 2006, pp. 36–43
  5. ^ a b Wolff 2001, pp. 281–8
  6. ^ Zedler 2011, pp. 24–25, 35 and 39ff.
  7. ^ Boyd 2006, pp. 135–137
  8. ^ a b BDW 08233
  9. ^ a b BDW 08231
  10. ^ a b BDW 08241
  11. ^ a b BDW 08184
  12. ^ a b BDW 08243
  13. ^ a b BDW 08208
  14. ^ a b BDW 08247
  15. ^ a b BDW 08195
  16. ^ a b BDW 08245
  17. ^ a b BDW 08300
  18. ^ a b BDW 08290
  19. ^ a b BDW 08305
  20. ^ a b BDW 08310
  21. ^ a b BDW 08303
  22. ^ a b BDW 08226
  23. ^ a b BDW 08308
  24. ^ a b BDW 08229
  25. ^ a b BDW 01308
  26. ^ BWV2a, p. 456
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Blanken 2015
  28. ^ a b Sonn- und Fest-Andachten Uber die ordentlichen Evangelia Aus gewissen Biblischen Texten Alten und Neuen Testaments Und In der Hoch-Fürstl. Sachs. Meining. Hof-Capell Der Heil. Dreyfaltigkeit Deroselben zu Ehren abgesungen. Meiningen: 1704. 3rd edition (1719): Sonntags- Und Fest-Andachten Über Die ordentliche EVANGELIA, Auß Gewissen Biblischen Texten Alten und Neuen Testaments In der Hoch-Fürstl. Sachsen-Coburg Meinungisch. Hof-Capelle zur Heiligen Dreyfaltigkeit Deroselben zu Ehren abgesungen
  29. ^ Christoph Birkmann. GOtt-geheiligte Sabbaths-Zehnden bestehend aus Geistlichen Cantaten auf alle Hohe Fest- Sonn- und Feyer-Täge der Herspruckischen Kirch-Gemeinde zu Gottseeliger Erbauung gewiedmet. Nürnberg: Lorenz Bieling, 1728
  30. ^ Texte Zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music, Auf den Dritten Sonntag nach Trinitatis, Das Fest Johannis des Täufers, Ingleichen Den fünfften Sonntag Trinitatis, Das Fest der Heimsuchung Mariä, Und Den sechsten Sonntag Trinitatis. Leipzig: Immanuel Tietzen, 1725
  31. ^ a b c Erdmann Neumeister. Geistliches Singen und Spielen – Das ist: Ein Jahrgang von Texten Welche dem Dreyeinigen GOTT zu Ehren bey öffentlicher Kirchen=Versammlung in Eisenach musicalisch aufgeführet werden von Georg. Philip. Telemann, F. S. Capellmeister und Secr. Gotha: 1711.
  32. ^ Breitkopf catalogue of 1770
  33. ^ a b Salomo Franck. Evangelisches Andachts-Opffer Auf des Durchlauchtigsten Fürsten und Herrn Wilhelm Ernstens [...] Christ-Fürstl. Anordnung in geistlichen CANTATEN welche auf die ordentliche Sonn- und Fest-Tage in der F. S. ges. Hof-Capelle zur Wilhelmsburg A. 1715. zu musiciren angezündet von Salomon Francken. Weimar: 1715
  34. ^ Picander (=Christian Friedrich Henrici). Sammlung erbaulicher Gedancken über und auf die gewöhnlichen Sonn- und Festtage. Leipzig: 1724–25
  35. ^ Picander (=Christian Friedrich Henrici). Ernst-Scherzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Volume I. Leipzig: 1727; 2nd printing 1732; 3rd printing 1736.
  36. ^ Picander (=Christian Friedrich Henrici). Cantaten auf die Sonn- und Fest-Tage durch das gantze Jahr. Leipzig: 1728
  37. ^ Georg Christian Lehms. Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer in einem gantzen Jahr-Gange Andächtiger Betrachtungen/ über die gewöhnlichen Sonn- und Festtags-Texte GOtt zu Ehren und der Darmstättischen Schloß-Capelle zu seiner Früh- und Mittags-Erbauung. Darmstadt: 1711.
  38. ^ Hermann Max (editor). Johann Ludwig Bach: Ja, mir hast du Arbeit gemacht. Carus, 1982


Church cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach by chronology
Preceded by
Bach's second cantata cycle
Church cantatas of Bach's third to fifth year in Leipzig
Succeeded by
Bach's fourth cantata cycle