Bach composed cantatas during the whole life. On the one hand they constitute the most extensive part of his vocal works, but on the other hand this fragment of his works is the least known to a wide music lovers' audience. We would like to change it and offer you not only these most famous pieces but also these less famous cantatas. Bach considered cantatas to be not only skilfully composed pieces executed on Sundays but his duty both before his superior and God. One should know that J. S. Bach's cantatas are compositions strictly connected with liturgical functions. They were composed according to the order of the church year. Most of them was composed in Lipsk, as the composer was obliged to provide a new composition for nearly every Sunday then. It is said that about 5 year's issues of cantatas were created. Unfortunately most of them are lost. Nowadays there nearly 200 religious cantatas for our disposal. Their texts are most often music interpretation of biblical texts from Old and New Testament and also texts of the following baroque poets: Salomon Frank or Christian Friedrich Henrici, called Picander.
Cantatas are rooted in the tradition of the Protestant chorale, that most often is regarded as a necessary mean of expression deciding about the character of the whole composition and even about its title. It was obviously connected with the role and function of chorale (religious song) in the liturgy. Secular cantatas constitute a percentage of his works, too. They were occasional compositions written for secular celebrations. As far as their structure is concerned they are more differentiated and show a greater influence of popular music of those times, so mainly of dances.
A kind of composition to be sang in parts with the accompaniment of instruments (Latin cantare - sing) The word "cantata" is Italian one coming for the second half of the 17th century. At first it was a vocal composition for singing. Solo singing, a mixture of recited poem and singing with an accompaniment - with the use of religious and secular texts - constitute the basis of cantata. Cantatas were, among others, composed by Italian and French musicians and especially by German ones. The religious cantata constituted a part of the service among Protestants there. The Germans were perfectly acquainted with it and developed it before Bach. As a vocal and instrumental form it comprised : recitatives, ariosos, duets, ensambles and choirs. Thanks to Bach it acquired its master form.
Bach, for me, is the greatest evangelist. His Cantatas and Passions have such an influence on the human soul, that a man starts to absorb everything that is true and unifying, and raises himself beyond everything that is meaningless and causing divisions.
Charles-Marie Widor, Organist and Composer (1844- 1937)