PREFACE: CHORAL MUSIC

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s choral music belongs almost exclusively to the years 1768–88, when he served as music director for the city of Hamburg.1 The only known exceptions are the Magnificat, Wq 215; the Easter cantata Gott hat den Herrn auferweckt, Wq 244; the wedding cantata Willt du mit diesem Manne ziehen, H 824a; and a few works from Bach’s student days, of which only a recently discovered cantata written for Leipzig (c. 1734) survives, as well as a few librettos for works performed at Frankfurt an der Oder. Series V presents Bach’s choral works, organized by genre and tradition. The three oratorios—the Passions-Cantate, Wq 233; Die Israeliten in der Wüste, Wq 238; and Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, Wq 240—and the twenty-one Passions have been assigned to series IV. Furthermore, it seemed appropriate to include the few secular works for solo voices, including Klopstocks Morgengesang am Schöpfungsfeste, Wq 239, in series VI with the vocal chamber music. The divisions between series IV, V, and VI are thus fluid and determined primarily by pragmatic decisions.

In many ways, C.P.E. Bach’s responsibilities in Hamburg were similar to those of his father in Leipzig. Like his predecessor Georg Philipp Telemann, Bach had to supply music on a regular basis for the city’s five main churches: St. Petri, St. Nicolai, St. Jacobi, St. Catharinen, and St. Michaelis. The musical requirements included cantatas not only for the main services on Sundays and feast days, but also for vesper services as well as special occasions, mainly installations of pastors and other officials. A smaller portion were commissions of the Hamburg bourgeoisie or its representatives, such as funeral pieces for mayors, or occasionally oratorios and serenades for the Bürgercapitain celebrations. The number of such commissions, especially from private individuals, was significantly less than during former times. Similarly, a smaller number of new church cantatas, which for J.S. Bach and Telemann still clearly formed a central part of their creative work, were used in the services. Like his brother Wilhelm Friedemann during his time as music director in Halle (1746–64), C.P.E. Bach instead focused on pieces for the high feast days. These cantatas were called Quartalstücke (quarterly music) to celebrate the principal seasons of the liturgical year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Michaelmas. Otherwise, Bach was content to perform works by other composers. After Bach’s death, the declining interest in the cantata as the main musical component of the church service became evident in 1789 when the two head pastors at St. Catharinen and St. Michaelis, Berkhan and Rambach, demanded the reduction of church music with choir and orchestra from 120 to 30 services annually, thereby ultimately approving and confirming Bach’s own approach.2

Even though only a small portion of the performance repertory, as recorded in NV 1790 and the auction catalogues of 1789 and 1805, is extant,3 the surviving material reveals a broad spectrum of procedures. These include presenting minimally altered works by other composers; mixing borrowed movements by various composers—occasionally with movements by Bach himself—to form pasticcios; and composing completely new works. This presents an uncommon situation for the complete edition of a composer’s creative output and requires case-by-case solutions.

For performances within and outside of the churches, Bach could generally count on only seven or eight paid church singers; the orchestra formed by the town musicians consisted of approximately fifteen reliable professionals. For special occasions additional musicians could be added, in which case they had to be paid separately.4 The performance materials almost always contain information about the place and date of performance. Transposed organ parts imply one of the four older main churches: in St. Catharinen and St. Nicolai the organs were tuned a whole step higher than regular pitch; in St. Petri and St. Jacobi the organs were a minor third higher; only the organ in St. Michaelis was tuned to Kammerton.5 Thus, non-transposed continuo parts, especially when marked “Fundament,” usually imply one of the Hamburg concert halls.

Series V is divided into the following volumes:

1. Magnificat
2. Quartalstücke
3. Einführungsmusiken
4. Bürgercapitainsmusiken
5. Works for Special Occasions
6. Miscellaneous Sacred Works

Most of the works in this series were composed with specific situations in mind. As they were adapted to Hamburg tradition, their use was restricted to that city, and they mostly survive only in their original sources. These were sold at the 1805 auction of Anna Carolina Philippina Bach’s estate and many were acquired by Georg Poelchau (1773–1836). Most consist of complete sets of parts prepared by some of Bach’s Hamburg copyists. A full autograph score is the exception rather than the rule: the autographs show that often only individual movements were newly composed or revised so substantially as to require a new autograph copy, whereas other movements were simply copied directly into the parts from extant sources at Bach’s request. A small number of full copies in score were requested of Bach’s widow after the publication of the estate catalogue (NV 1790), mainly by Bach’s successor Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke (1767–1822) and by the Schwerin collector Johann Jakob Heinrich Westphal.6

Owing to their limited transmission, the editing of these pieces poses no fundamental problems. In many cases the sources from Bach's library reveal several stages of revision; rarely is a publication of more than one complete version necessary in order to represent properly two or more distinct stages of revision. A variety of means (ossia systems, excerpts, commentary, replacement movements) are applied to all versions that may be regarded as authorized by the composer. Only a small number of large-scale vocal pieces adhere to the principle of revision toward an aesthetically motivated Fassung letzter Hand; most vocal works were apparently rearranged primarily for pragmatic reasons. Later versions thus do not necessarily replace earlier ones; the earlier ones may have been revived by Bach at a later occasion. Bach’s practice of rearranging several movements from a small repertoire in different contexts may be seen particularly well in the funeral compositions, where a limited number of chorale settings are used in various combinations. The edition takes a practical approach in presenting a complete, coherent version of each work, sometimes including both an early and late version (as with the Magnificat, Wq  215), and always accounting for the various surviving sources and known versions.

Ulrich Leisinger
General Editor


1. See Miesner and Clark.

2. For a summary of the church music reforms of 1789, see Sanders, 140–45.

3. BA 1789, facsimile in: Ulrich Leisinger, “Die ‘Bachsche Auction’ von 1789,” Bach-Jahrbuch (1991): 112–22; and AK 1805, facsimile in: Elias N. Kulukundis, “Die Versteigerung von C.P.E. Bachs musikalischem Nachlaß im Jahre 1805,” Bach-Jahrbuch (1995): 145–76.

4. Sanders, esp. 83–94.

5. See Ulrich Leisinger, “Neues über Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs Passionen nach ‘historischer und alter Art’,” JbSIM (2002): 107–19, esp. 117. See also Sanders, 134–35.

6. Ulrich Leisinger, “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs Kirchenkantaten. Eine Standortbestimmung,” JbSIM (2003): 116–25.