List of secular cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach

Apart from his hundreds of church cantatas Johann Sebastian Bach wrote secular cantatas in Weimar, Köthen and Leipzig, for instance for members of the Royal-Polish and Prince-electoral Saxonian family (e.g. Trauer-Ode),[1] or other public or private occasions (e.g. Hunting Cantata).[2] The text of these cantatas was occasionally in dialect (e.g. Peasant Cantata)[3] or in Italian (e.g. Amore traditore).[4] Many of the secular cantatas went lost, but for some of these the text and the occasion are known, for instance when Picander later published their libretto (e.g. BWV Anh. 1112).[5] Some of the secular cantatas had a plot carried by mythological figures of Greek antiquity (e.g. Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan),[6] others were almost miniature buffo operas (e.g. Coffee Cantata).[7]

Extant secular cantatas are published in the New Bach Edition (Neue Bach-Ausgabe, NBA), Series I, volumes 35 to 40, with the two Italian cantatas included in volume 41.[8] The Bach-Digital website lists 50 secular cantatas by Bach.[9] Less than half of Bach's known secular cantatas survive with music. For most of the others at least the libretto survives. For many of the secular cantatas Bach reused music he had composed before (e.g. the first Brandenburg Concerto resurfaced in a secular cantata), and even more often did he parody secular cantatas into church music, for instance his Christmas Oratorio opens with music from a secular cantata.[10]

In the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV) the range of Nos. 201 to 216a contains mostly extant secular cantatas. Other secular cantatas are in the range of the church cantatas (BWV 1–200), most of them with an "a", "b" or "c" index added to the number of a church cantata while the cantatas share the same music. The same applies for the secular cantata precursors of the Easter Oratorio. Other secular cantatas are listed in BWV Anh. I, that is the appendix of the lost works. Even for these cantatas the music can sometimes be reconstructed, based on the church cantatas that were derived from them.


Bach's earliest cantatas are church cantatas, although his early Wedding Quodlibet is sometimes grouped with the secular cantatas.[11][12] The oldest extant secular cantata is from his Weimar period where he composed the Hunting Cantata (BWV 208, first version) for the birthday of Christian, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels on 23 February 1713. The libretto was written by Salomon Franck. A few years later, the cantata was performed again, in a modified version, for his employer Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.[9]

In his Köthen period, Bach wrote congratulatory cantatas for his new employer, Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, usually on the Prince's birthday, or for New Year. BWV 66a, 134a, Anh. 6, Anh. 7, 184a, 173a and Anh. 8 are examples of such cantatas, the oldest of which were composed on a libretto by Christian Friedrich Hunold. Up to this point Bach's secular cantatas are generally in the Serenata format, lighthearted music with allegorical characters conversing about the excellence of the employer, and expressing their best wishes.[13]

A secular wedding cantata, BWV 202, an Italian cantata (BWV 203), and the secular model for the Störmthal cantata BWV 194 probably originated around the same period.[9][13]

Numerical and alphabetical

The BWV numbers assigned to the secular cantatas are random with regard to chronology and occasion:

By text incipit

Most of the secular cantatas are named after the first words of the libretto (incipit):

Other titles

No title extant

By occasion (NBA)

The New Bach Edition groups the secular cantatas in the last seven volumes of Series I.

Music for feasts at the courts of Weimar, Weißenfels and Köthen

Volume 35 – Festmusiken für die Fürstenhäuser von Weimar, Weißenfels und Köthen:[18]

Music celebrating the Saxonian prince-electoral family

Volume 36 – Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus I:[20]

Volume 37 – Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus II:[22]

Music for celebrations at the Leipzig University

Volume 38 – Festmusiken zu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern:[24]

For Leipzig's city council and school; Celebrations of noblemen and civilians

Volume 39 – Festmusiken für Leipziger Rats- und Schulfeiern / Huldigungsmusiken für Adelige und Bürger:[26]

For weddings and diverse occasions

Volume 40 – Hochzeitskantaten und Weltliche Kantaten verschiedener Bestimmung:[28]

Italian cantatas

Volume 41, Varia: Kantaten, Quodlibet, Einzelsätze, Bearbeitungen, contains, apart from various pieces of sacred vocal music and the incomplete Quodlibet, Bach's two Italian cantatas:[30]


Complete recordings of the secular cantatas include those by Peter Schreier[31] and Helmuth Rilling.[32] Also Masaaki Suzuki devoted a series of recordings to the secular cantatas.[33]

Sets of recordings of Bach's secular cantatas
BWV Title Schreier Rilling Suzuki
30a Angenehmes Wiederau 17
36b Die Freude reget sich 19
36c Schwingt freudig euch empor CD 1/I 18 Vol. 3/III
53 Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde Vol. 6/II
134a Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht 20 Vol. 2/III
173a Durchlauchtster Leopold 21 Vol. 3/I
198 Trauerode Vol. 6/I
201 Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan CD 2/I 1
202 Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten CD 3/I 2 Vol. 3/II
203 Amore traditore CD 1/III 3 Vol. 7/III
204 Ich bin in mir vergnügt CD 4/II 4
205 Der zufriedengestellte Äolus CD 5/I 22 Vol. 4/I
206 Schleicht, spielende Wellen CD 6/I 6
207 Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten CD 5/II 8 Vol. 4/II
207a Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten 7
208 Hunting Cantata CD 4/I 9 Vol. 2/II
209 Non sa che sia dolore CD 1/II 10 Vol. 7/II
210 O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit CD 3/II 11 Vol. 1/I
211 Coffee Cantata CD 7/I 12 Vol. 1/II
212 Peasant Cantata CD 7/II 13 Vol. 7/I
213 Herkules am Scheidewege CD 8/I 14 Vol. 5/I
214 Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! CD 8/II 15 Vol. 5/II
215 Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen CD 6/II 16
524 Quodlibet 5 Vol. 3/IV
1046a/1 Sinfonia in F Major (1st movement of BWV 1046) Vol. 2/I
1083 Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden (after Pergolesi) Vol. 6/III


  1. Bach Digital Work 0246 at
  2. Bach Digital Work 0261, 0262 at
  3. Bach Digital Work 0268 at
  4. Bach Digital Work 0253 at
  5. Bach Digital Work 1319, 1320 at
  6. Bach Digital Work 0251 at
  7. Traupman-Carr, Carol. "Cantata BWV 211, Coffee Cantata". Bach 101. Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): New Edition of the Complete Works – Series I: Cantatas at Bärenreiter website
  9. 1 2 3 4 Bach's secular cantatas in BWV order, each followed by a link to the Bach Digital Work (BDW) page of the cantata at the Bach-Digital website:
    1. BWV 30a (BDW 0039)
    2. BWV 36a (BDW 0049)
    3. BWV 36b (BDW 0050)
    4. BWV 36c (BDW 0051)
    5. BWV 66a (BDW 0083)
    6. BWV 134a (BDW 0166)
    7. BWV 173a (BDW 0211)
    8. BWV 184a (BDW 0223)
    9. BWV 193a (BDW 0235)
    10. BWV 194a (BDW 0239)
    11. BWV 198 (BDW 0246)
    12. BWV 201 (BDW 0251)
    13. BWV 202 (BDW 0252)
    14. BWV 203 (BDW 0253)
    15. BWV 204 (BDW 0254)
    16. BWV 205 (BDW 0255)
    17. BWV 205a (BDW 0256)
    18. BWV 206, first version (BDW 0257)
    19. BWV 206, second version (BDW 0258)
    20. BWV 207 (BDW 0259)
    21. BWV 207a (BDW 0260)
    22. BWV 208, first version (BDW 0261)
    23. BWV 208, second version (BDW 0262)
    24. BWV 208a (BDW 0263)
    25. BWV 209 (BDW 0264)
    26. BWV 210 (BDW 0265)
    27. BWV 210a (BDW 0266)
    28. BWV 211 (BDW 0267)
    29. BWV 212 (BDW 0268)
    30. BWV 213 (BDW 0269)
    31. BWV 214 (BDW 0270)
    32. BWV 215 (BDW 0271)
    33. BWV 216 (BDW 0272)
    34. BWV 216a (BDW 0273)
    35. BWV 249a (BDW 0318)
    36. BWV 249b (BDW 0319)
    37. BWV Anh. 6 (BDW 1314)
    38. BWV Anh. 7 (BDW 1315)
    39. BWV Anh. 8 (BDW 1316)
    40. BWV Anh. 9 (BDW 1317)
    41. BWV Anh. 10 (BDW 1318)
    42. BWV Anh. 11 (BDW 1319)
    43. BWV Anh. 12 (BDW 1320)
    44. BWV Anh. 13 (BDW 1321)
    45. BWV Anh. 18 (BDW 1326)
    46. BWV Anh. 19 (BDW 1327)
    47. BWV Anh. 20 (BDW 1328)
    48. BWV Anh. 195 (BDW 1506)
    49. BWV Anh. 196 (BDW 1507)
    50. BWV deest (BDW 1536)
  10. Robert Cowan. "JSB: the full works" in The Independent, 2 May 1997
  11. Terry 1933, pp. 103–104
  12. Secular Cantatas: Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus (BWV 205), Quodlibet (BWV 524). Hänssler Classics, Edition Bachakademie Vol. 63, Rilling. OCLC 612085801
  13. 1 2 Dürr, Alfred (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Translated by Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4. "Introduction", pp. 9ff.
  14. Picander (=Christian Friedrich Henrici). Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Volume IV. Leipzig: Friedrich Matthias Friesen (1737), pp. 3–7
  15. Picander (=Christian Friedrich Henrici). Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Volume IV. Leipzig: Friedrich Matthias Friesen (1737), pp. 14–17
  16. 1 2 3 4 Jones 2013, p. 10
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Terry 1933, pp. 98–100
  18. Alfred Dürr (1963; 3rd edition: 2013). Festmusiken für die Fürstenhäuser von Weimar, Weißenfels und Köthen (score). at Bärenreiter website
  19. Alfred Dürr (1964). Festmusiken für die Fürstenhäuser von Weimar, Weißenfels und Köthen (critical commentary). at Bärenreiter website
  20. Werner Neumann (1963; 2nd edition: 2015). Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus I (score). at Bärenreiter website
  21. Werner Neumann (1962). Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus I (critical commentary). at Bärenreiter website
  22. Werner Neumann (1961; 3rd edition: 2015). Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus II (score). at Bärenreiter website
  23. Werner Neumann (1961). Festmusiken für das Kurfürstlich-Sächsische Haus II (critical commentary). at Bärenreiter website
  24. Werner Neumann (1960; 3rd edition: 2012). Festmusiken zu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern (score). at Bärenreiter website
  25. Werner Neumann (1960). Festmusiken zu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern (critical commentary). at Bärenreiter website
  26. Werner Neumann (1975). Festmusiken für Leipziger Rats- und Schulfeiern / Huldigungsmusiken für Adelige und Bürger (score) at Bärenreiter website
  27. Werner Neumann (1977). Festmusiken für Leipziger Rats- und Schulfeiern / Huldigungsmusiken für Adelige und Bürger (critical commentary) at Bärenreiter website
  28. Werner Neumann (1969; 3rd edition 2013). Hochzeitskantaten und Weltliche Kantaten verschiedener Bestimmung (score) at Bärenreiter website
  29. Werner Neumann (1970). Hochzeitskantaten und Weltliche Kantaten verschiedener Bestimmung (critical commentary) at Bärenreiter website
  30. Andreas Glöckner (2000). Varia: Kantaten, Quodlibet, Einzelsätze, Bearbeitungen (score) and (critical commentary) at Bärenreiter website
  31. Peter Schreier's recordings date mostly from the early 1980s, but were in 2000 included as box set Vol. 7 in Brilliant Classics' Bach Edition (complete recording):
  32. Issued by Hänssler Classic in 2001:
  33. Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan:


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