List of chorale harmonisations by Johann Sebastian Bach

BWV 364, Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale harmonisation of the hymn Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod überwand

Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale harmonisations, alternatively named four-part chorales, are Lutheran hymn settings that characteristically conform to the following:

In Bach's extant autographs such chorale harmonisations are usually part of a larger vocal work, most typically one of his chorale cantatas, or at least part of a set or collection such as D-B Mus. ms. Bach St 123, a set of three wedding chorales. Most autographs also show a colla parte instrumentation and/or a figured bass accompaniment for Bach's chorale settings.

Yet Chapter 5 of the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis and Series F of the Bach Compendium list around two hundred of these chorale harmonisations as separate compositions without apparent instrumental accompaniment. This results from the history of these chorale settings between their composition in the first half of the 18th century and the publication of most of them in the second half of that century.

Apart from the four-part homophonic SATB chorus settings, Bach's Lutheran hymn harmonisations also appear as:


Breitkopf 1784: No. 1 "Aus meines Herzens Grunde" (= BWV 269) and No. 2 "Ich dank' dir, lieber Herre" (= BWV 347)

The compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach that had been printed during his lifetime were nearly exclusively instrumental works. Moreover, by the time Bach died in 1750 it was forgotten that a few of his vocal works (BWV 71, BWV 439–507,...) had indeed been printed in the first half of the 18th century.[1] In the period between the publication of The Art of Fugue in the early 1750s, and the publication of further works from 1900, only one group of Bach's works was published: his four-part chorales.

The most complete 18th century publication of chorales by J. S. Bach is Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's edition in four volumes, published by Breitkopf from 1784 to 1787. About half of the chorale harmonisations in this collection have their origin in other extant works by Bach. This collection went through four more editions and countless reprintings until 1897. Several other collections of chorales by J. S. Bach were published, some of these using the original C-clef or different texts.

The loss of musical material from Bach's death to the first printings of chorale collections may have been substantial. Not only are many works the chorales were extracted from no longer extant but there is no way of knowing how much of all the harmonisations that were once compiled the current collections include. For example, there is no way of knowing how many of the 150 harmonisations first proposed for sale in 1764 also appear in Princess Anna Amalia's manuscript which ultimately forms the basis of the Breitkopf edition. As to the chorale melodies with figured bass, current collections include less than one hundred of them whereas those proposed for sale in 1764 numbered 240.

The chorale harmonisations BWV 250–438 were probably all extracted from lost larger vocal works. For six of them the work they have been derived from has been identified. Bach's chorale harmonisations are all for a four-part choir (SATB), but Riemenschneider's and Terry's collections contain one 5-part SSATB choral harmonisation (Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde, Riemenscheider No. 150, Terry No. 365), not actually by Bach, but used by Bach as the concluding chorale to cantata Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? BWV 27.


The first record of the existence and sale of groups of collected chorale harmonisations and chorale melodies with figured bass extracted from larger works by J.S. Bach is from 1764, fourteen years after Bach's death. In that year the firm Breitkopf und Sohn announced for sale manuscript copies of 150 chorale harmonisations and 240 chorale melodies with figured bass by J.S. Bach.

In 1765 F. W. Birnstiel published 100 chorales in Berlin. The edition had been initiated by F. W. Marpurg and completed, edited and supplemented with a preface and a list of errata by C. P. E. Bach. A second volume of 100 was issued by the same publisher in 1769, edited by J. F. Agricola. C. P. E. Bach criticised this publication as being full of mistakes in an article which was published in Hamburg in the Staats- und Gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyeschen Correspondenten on May 30, 1769, where he also claimed that some of the chorale harmonisations included in the volume had not been composed by his father.


In 1777 Johann Kirnberger started an active letter campaign to induce Breitkopf to publish a complete set of chorale harmonisations. Kirnberger's letters emphasize his motivation to have the chorales printed in order to preserve them for the benefit of future generations. The manuscript to be used once belonged to C. P. E. Bach, who sold it through Kirnberger to Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia (for twelve louis d'or). It is presumed that this manuscript contained neither the text of the chorales nor any reference to the larger works from which the harmonisations had been taken. The manuscript's harmonisations extracted only the vocal parts and ignored the instrumental parts and the continuo, even though all of Bach's chorale settings included both instrumental parts and continuo. The instrumental parts were either independent, so called obbligato instrumental parts, or mostly doubled the vocal parts sometimes separating from it for a very few beats, and the continuo had its bass mostly double the vocal bass at the lower octave, but could also separate from it for a very few beats. Finally in some cases, for reasons unknown, whoever extracted the chorale from the larger work, changed the key of the setting.

C. P. E. Bach's edition for Breitkopf

After Kirnberger died in 1783, C. P. E. Bach became Breitkopfs's editor for these chorales, which he then published in four parts: 1784: nos. 1–96, 1785: nos. 97–194, 1786: 195–283, 1787: 283–370. The number 283 was mistakenly used for two different chorales which became 283a and 283b: this numbering error was corrected from the 1831 dritte Auflage on. So the collection contained ostensibly 371 chorales, but it were in fact only 348.

This collection was republished in 1804 ("neue Auflage"), in 1831 ("dritte Auflage", by Breitkopf & Härtel, preface by C. F. Becker), in 1885 ("vierte Auflage", also edited by C. F. Becker) and in 1897 (edited by Ernst Naumann).

Bach Gesellschaft edition

The Bach Gesellschaft published the original 371 chorales from the C. P. E. Bach edition in volume 39 of their Complete Works in 1892.

20th century

Published in 1929, Charles Sanford Terry's J. S. Bach's Four-Part Chorales contains 405 chorale harmonisations and 95 melodies with figured bass. The collection was reprinted 1964, with a foreword by Walter Emery.

Albert Riemenschneider's collection of 371 chorales was published in 1941. In some cases Riemenschneider restores some information about obbligato instrumental parts when the larger work is extant, e.g. his No. 270 from cantata BWV 161, or about the continuo bass line if this does not exactly coincide with the vocal bass, e.g. his No. 29 from cantata BWV 32 and his No. 35 from the Christmas Oratorio BWV 248.

Riemenschneider does however not restore the original key even if the larger work is extant but instead keeps the chorale in the key in which it is found in the Breitkopf collection, e.g. his No. 22, in E-flat major comes from cantata BWV 180 where it is in F major. At times the key signature in Riemenschneider's edition does not correspond to the key, for instance No. 19, in G minor but written with a "Dorian" G key signature. This too is presumably reproduced from the Breitkopf edition, which would have followed a common 17th- and 18th-century practice.

Chorale harmonisations

The table cross references BWV numbers of the listed chorales with numberings found in some of the major chorale publications. For a cross-reference with Bach Compendium numbers see scores:List of works by Johann Sebastian Bach#Four-Part Chorales (250–438). A cross-reference between Lutheran hymns, their Zahn number, and their appearance in compositions by Bach (including, but not limited to, the chorale harmonizations) can be found pp. 471–481 of BWV2a.[2]

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan2503393463423471st Wedding Chorale in this group
Sei Lob und Ehr' dem höchsten Gut (melody of "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her")25189328913292nd Wedding Chorale in this group
Nun danket alle Gott2522583292583303rd Wedding Chorale in this group
Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ25311771177 
Ach Gott, erhör' mein Seufzen25421862186 
Ach Gott und Herr255340440 
Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost2563853138531 
Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit (melody of "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält")257388284386285 
Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält258383335387336No. 63 in Schemelli
Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen25910391039 
Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'2601224916249 
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ2611535818359 
Alle Menschen müssen sterben2621715313153 
Alles ist an Gottes Segen2631912819128 
Als der gütige Gott2642015920159 
Als Jesus Christus in der Nacht2652118021180 
Als vierzig Tag nach Ostern2662220822208 
An Wasserflüssen Babylon267235235 
Auf, auf, mein Herz, und du mein ganzer Sinn2682412424124 
Aus meines Herzens Grunde269301301 
Befiehl du deine Wege (melody of "Herzlich tut mich verlangen")270157285162286 
Befiehl du deine Wege (or "Herzlich tut mich verlangen")271158366163367 
Befiehl du deine Wege2723233932340 
Christ, der du bist der helle Tag2733323033230 
Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht2743424544245 
Christe, du Beistand deiner Kreuzgemeinde2753521045210 
Christ ist erstanden2763619735197 
Christ lag in Todes Banden27738153915 
Christ lag in Todesbanden2783937040371 
Christ lag in Todesbanden2794026137261 
Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam28043654366 
Christus, der ist mein Leben281467476 
Christus, der ist mein Leben2824731548316BWV 95 Christus, der ist mein Leben (opening chorus)
Christus, der uns selig macht28348198, 30651198, 307 
Christus ist erstanden, hat überwunden2845120052200 
Da der Herr Christ zu Tische saß2855219653196 
Danket dem Herren2865322855228 
Dank sei Gott in der Höhe2875431054311 
Das alte Jahr vergangen ist2885516256162 
Das alte Jahr vergangen ist2895631357314 
Das walt' Gott Vater und Gott Sohn2905822459224 
Das walt' mein Gott, Vater, Sohn und Heiliger Geist29159756075 
Den Vater dort oben2926023961239 
Der du bist drei in Einigkeit2936115462154 
Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich2946215863158 
Des heil'gen Geistes reiche Gnad'2956320764207 
Die Nacht ist kommen2966423165231 
Die Sonn' hat sich mit ihrem Glanz2976523266232 
Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot'2986612767127 
Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen2996720968209Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach
Du grosser Schmerzensmann3007016471167 
Du, o schönes Weltgebäude3017113773134 
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott30274207620 
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott3037525077250 
Eins ist Not! ach Herr, dies Eine3047728078280 
Erbarm' dich mein, o Herre Gott30578337934 
Erstanden ist der heil'ge Christ3068517686176 
Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit307262260262260 
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl30892279327 
Es stehn vor Gottes Throne3099316694166 
Es wird schier der letzte Tag herkommen3109423895238 
Es woll' uns Gott genädig sein31195169716 
Es woll' uns Gott genädig sein3129635198352 
Für Freuden lasst uns springen313106163107163 
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ314107287112288 
Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille315111271113271 
Gott, der du selber bist das Licht316112225114225 
Gott, der Vater, wohn' uns bei317113134115135 
Gottes Sohn ist kommen3181151812018 
Gott hat das Evangelium319116181117181 
Gott lebet noch320117234118234No. 37 in Schemelli
Gottlob, es geht nunmehr zu Ende321118192121192 
Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet / Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn3221197011970 
Gott sei uns gnädig323120319239320melody better known as "Meine Seele erhebt den Herren" – the "German Magnificat" or Tonus peregrinus
Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn324121130240130 
Heilig, heilig (or Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth)325123235, 318122235, 319 
Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir326129167129164 
Vor deinen Thron tret' ich hiermit (or "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir")327132333130334 
Herr Gott, dich loben wir328133205133205 
Herr, ich denk' an jene Zeit329136212134212 
Herr, ich habe missgehandelt3301373513533 
Herr, ich habe missgehandelt331138286136287 
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend332139136137136 
Herr Jesu Christ, du hast bereit't333140226138226 
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut3341417314273 
Herr Jesu Christ (or O Jesu Christ), mein's Lebens Licht (or O Jesu, du mein Bräutigam)335145236143295BWV 118 O Jesu Christ, mein's Lebens Licht
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr'r Mensch und Gott336146189145189 
Herr, nun lass in Frieden337148190146190 
Herr, straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn338149221147221 
Herr, wie du willst, so schick's mit mir or Wer in dem Schutz des Höchsten339151144149144, 318 
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr340152277153277 
Heut ist, o Mensch, ein großer Trauertag341170168168168 
Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn3421717916979 
Hilf, Gott, dass mir's gelinge343172199, 301170199, 302 
Hilf, Herr Jesu, lass gelingen344173155171155 
Ich bin ja, Herr, in deiner Macht345174251172251 
Ich dank' dir Gott für all' Wohltat346175223173223 
Ich dank' dir, lieber Herre34717621752 
Ich dank' dir, lieber Herre348177272176272 
Ich dank' dir schon durch deinen Sohn349179188177188 
Ich danke dir, o Gott, in deinem Throne350180229178229 
Ich hab' mein' Sach' Gott heimgestellt3511821918019 
Jesu, der du meine Seele3521853719237 
Jesu, der du meine Seele353186269193269 
Jesu, der du meine Seele354187368194369 
Jesu, der du selbsten wohl355189169195169 
Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben356190243196243 
Jesu, Jesu, du bist mein357191244197244No. 53 in Schemelli
Jesu, meine Freude358195355207356 
Jesu meiner Seelen Wonne (melody of "Werde munter, mein Gemüte")359363364372365 
Jesu, meiner Freuden Freude (melody of "Werde munter, mein Gemüte")360364349373350 
Jesu, meines Herzens Freud'361202264208264 
Jesu, nun sei gepreiset362203252211252 
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland3632063021230 
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland364207174213174 
Jesus, meine Zuversicht365208175215175 
Ihr Gestirn', ihr hohlen Lüfte366210161183161 
In allen meinen Taten367211140184140 
In dulci jubilo368215143188143 
Keinen hat Gott verlassen369217129216129 
Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist370218187217187 
Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit371225132222132 
Lass, o Herr, dein Ohr sich neigen372226218223218 
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier373228131226131 
Lobet den Herren, denn er ist freundlich374232227229227 
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich375233276232276 
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich376234341233342 
Mach's mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt'3772374423644 
Meine Augen schliess' ich jetzt378240258237258 
Meinen Jesum lass' ich nicht, Jesus379241151247151 
Meinen Jesum lass' ich nicht, weil380242298246299 
Meines Lebens letzte Zeit381248345248346 
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin3822494925149 
Mitten wir im Leben sind383252214252214 
Nicht so traurig, nicht so sehr384253149253149 
Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist3852543625636 
Nun danket alle Gott3862573225932Leuthen Chorale
Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder all'387260185260185 
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein388261183263183 
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren389269268271268 
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren390270295272296 
Nun preiset alle Gottes Barmherzigkeit391273222273222 
Nun ruhen alle Wälder (melody of "O Welt ich muss dich lassen")392298288295289 
O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben (melody of "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen")393289275296275 
O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben (melody of "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen")394290365297366 
O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben395291362298363 
Nun sich der Tag geendet hat396274240274240 
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort397275274276274BWV 513 & Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach
O Gott, du frommer Gott398277311282312BWV 197a Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe ("Ich freue mich in dir")
O Gott, du frommer Gott399282314277315 
O Herzensangst, o Bangigkeit400284173284173 
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig401285165285165 
O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß402286201, 305286201, 306 
O Mensch, schaue Jesum Christum an403287203287203 
O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid4042886028857 
O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen405299213299213No. 65 in Schemelli
O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen406300219300219 
O wir armen Sünder407301202301202 
Schaut, ihr Sünder408303171303171 
Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig410307172308172No. 22 in Schemelli
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied411309246310246 
So gibst du nun, mein Jesu, gute Nacht412310206311206No. 26 in Schemelli
Sollt' ich meinem Gott nicht singen413311220312220No. 18 in Schemelli
Uns ist ein Kindlein heut' gebor'n414313148148 
Valet will ich dir geben4153142431524 
Vater unser im Himmelreich4163164731947BWV 245
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen417324363326364 
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen418325331327332 
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen419326114328114 
Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz420331145332145 
Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz421332299333300 
Warum sollt' ich mich denn grämen422334356335357 
Was betrübst du dich, mein Herze423336237336237 
Was bist du doch, o Seele, so betrübet424337193337193No. 55 in Schemelli
Was willst du dich, o meine Seele425349241350241 
Weltlich Ehr' und zeitlich Gut426351211351211 
Wenn ich in Angst und Not427352147352147 
Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist428353321355322 
Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist4293545135652 
Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist430355350357351 
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein4313586835868 
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein432359247359247 
Wer Gott vertraut, hat wohl gebaut433366135360137 
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten434367146367146 
Wie bist du, Seele, in mir so gar betrübt435374242374242 
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern436375278378278 
Wir glauben all' an einen Gott437382133382133 
Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein' Gunst438389157388157 

See also


  1. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Friedrich Agricola. "Bach's Nekrolog" (full title: "VI. Denkmal dreyer verstorbenen Mitglieder der Societät der musikalischen Wissenschafften; C. Der dritte und letzte ist der im Orgelspielen Weltberühmte HochEdle Herr Johann Sebastian Bach, Königlich-Pohlnischer und Churfürstlich Sächsicher Hofcompositeur, und Musikdirector in Leipzig"), pp. 158–176 in Lorenz Christoph Mizler's Musikalische Bibliothek, Volume IV Part 1. Leipzig, Mizlerischer Bücherverlag, 1754 – pp. 167–168
  2. (BWV2a) Alfred Dürr, Yoshitake Kobayashi (eds.), Kirsten Beißwenger. Bach Werke Verzeichnis: Kleine Ausgabe, nach der von Wolfgang Schmieder vorgelegten 2. Ausgabe. Preface in English and German. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1998. ISBN 3765102490 - ISBN 978-3765102493 pp. 471–481


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