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 Johann Sebastian 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 still 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 tuned 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 conformed 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 most 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.


The extant sources for the cantatas that C.P.E. Bach performed in Hamburg document a wide spectrum: from his own compositions, through pasticcios, to the performances of works by others. The question of how many church cantatas C.P.E. Bach created in his tenure as music director in Hamburg is not one that admits unequivocal answers. This has less to do with lost sources than with defining which of the pieces Bach performed merit being considered his own work. Among the compositions he performed, the so-called Quartalstücke (literally, quarterly pieces for the four principal seasons of the church year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Michaelmas) appear to be a type peculiar to Hamburg. In his oeuvre they hold a clearly prominent pride of place.

The preponderance of the almost 125 liturgical performances that Bach as music director was responsible for leading each year consisted of musical contributions to worship services on Sundays and feast days. Accordingly in Bach’s letter of 6 December 1767 to Georg Michael Telemann, who temporarily held the position after the death of his grandfather Georg Philipp Telemann, the first questions to arise concerned the performances of cantatas, which Bach could take for granted as being the lion’s share of the music for the high services.7

In larger Protestant cities in Germany it was entirely normal to confer responsibility for the music performed during liturgical services in the various main churches to one city music director, who served the main churches in rotation, with an ensemble that belonged to none of them in particular; this Bach knew from Leipzig, where his father was responsible for the music at two main churches and several lesser ones, and possibly also from his brother Wilhelm Friedemann, who served the three main churches in Halle from 1746 to 1764. The relationships in Hamburg were particularly complex, because beginning in 1687 the music director was responsible for music at the five main churches. The performance locations and dates were announced at the very beginning of each calendar year in the Schreib-Kalender; further changes due to particular circumstances were then published in the newspapers.8

Music formed a considerable portion of the worship services. As a result of the order of the service, the principal music in the morning service9 took the form of two parts: a first, larger offering took place between the reading of the epistle and the creed (e.g., the chorale “Wir glauben all an einen Gott”), the second directly after the sermon.10 Between five and eight movements were typical for the first part (vor der Predigt), while the second (nach der Predigt) was markedly shorter. Because of the separate placement within the service, in the morning service either a two-part cantata or two mutually independent works could be performed. In the sources belonging to his performance repertoire, Bach often used the numbers (1) and (2) on the title pages to distinguish between “first” and “second” pieces, in addition to abbreviations in the form of initials denoting the churches where the pieces were performed.11 At the conclusion of the service “the Cantor is free to make music,” as the Order of Vespers of 1699 pronounces. In Bach’s time this appears to have been for the most part a chorus, usually a chorale or the opening chorus from one of the pieces already heard earlier. At the high and ordinary feast days, as well as on some other Sundays of particular significance, the choir performed both in the morning and the afternoon services; in addition, a vesper service with liturgical music was performed the evening before feast days. The afternoon and vesper services had their own order of worship, in which orchestral music was apparently performed only before the sermon. We have only rudimentary knowledge about the organization of the afternoon and vesper services. It remains unclear whether in these services typically the first or the second piece of the main service was performed. It could thus be that the same work was heard up to three times in the same church on one weekend, namely, in the vesper service the evening before the feast, and in the morning and afternoon services on the feast day.12 When musical presentations were planned for a feast day or Sunday morning and afternoon, one spoke in Hamburg of ganze Musik (complete music; sometimes also referred to as große Musik) services, as opposed to the halbe Musik (half music; also kleine Musik) of ordinary Sundays, when music was performed only in the morning service. A further distinction concerned the number of performers: the usual ensemble presenting halbe Musik consisted of the permanently engaged musicians, around fourteen instrumentalists and at most eight singers. In the case of ganze Musik the forces might be considerably expanded, chiefly through the addition of trumpets and timpani.13

The organization of the music in Hamburg’s main churches which C.P.E. Bach faced extended back to the seventeenth century.14 In 1687 St. Michaelis, built slightly earlier, was included in the regular rotation of the church music. The music director had to take care that the main churches be treated with equal consideration in their musical presentations, and a rotating system, which Bach took over unchanged from his predecessors, was conducive to this. Apparently, however, it was equally important to the parish to hold their ganze and halbe Musik on established dates in a way that respected the seniority of the churches. In the planning of details which fell to the Cantor, first of all a largely settled scheme of six ganze Musik services was established for each church.15 The performances took place in sequence according to the age of the parish: St. Petri as the oldest congregation was served before St. Nicolai, St. Catharinen, St. Jacobi, and St. Michaelis.16

According to the assignment of the sacred cantatas, which appear among Bach’s compositions either in NV 1790 or in AK 1805, it is clear from the calendar of performances for the Hamburg main churches that these works were almost without exception intended for ganze Musik.17 It appears to have been important to Bach that he present for the ganze Musik particularly demanding works—either his own compositions or exemplary works of other masters adapted with care by him.

On ordinary Sundays music was given only in the morning services. Their designation as halbe Musik certainly did not mean that the morning music program was shortened relative to those of the afternoon: here too, as we see from the sources, two cantatas—before and after the sermon—were intended. Bach seems, however, to have covered these performances exclusively with works by other composers. Even aside from the works of J.S. Bach, which C.P.E. Bach only rarely used for performances, NV 1790 lists a dozen annual cycles of cantatas by G.P. Telemann, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, and other composers. This provoked pointed complaints in 1771 from some of the Hamburg clergy that Bach was not fulfilling the expectations raised by Telemann’s exceptional productivity:

“a few elders who spoke to me at a recent gathering said politely but pointedly (it was their right) that they now hoped I would appear in the future with my own pieces and texts and that I might not in the future conduct my office by commission. … At Easter I will begin with two new Jahrgänge. Moreover, my text printer no longer wants to give me the customary fee. It is also time for once, to change the texts, so that the city knows that a new Cantor is here.”18

In order not to upset the order of the services with ganze Musik, those with halbe Musik were performed in a separate sequence, serving the five main churches in the habitual order from St. Petri to St. Michaelis. The sequence and division of church music among the Hamburg churches, at first glance confusing, thus appears as the accidental overlapping of two well-thought-out cycles of church music performances with ganze or halbe Musik in independent rotations. The different heft of compositions in the ganze and halbe Musik, discernible in Bach’s compositional approach, did not go unnoticed. As a consequence, in the wake of the reforms of the church music after Bach’s death, the cycle of halbe Musik was eliminated and the role of the music director reduced to the presentation of the ganze Musik.19

In the planning of the ganze Musik Bach made use of the fact that for four of the cycles, the presentations in the five main churches took place in worship services that followed each other in close succession (see table 1). Accordingly Bach generally chose to give one and the same work in all five main churches. This practice had already been settled in the late 1720s for Telemann. It could, however, be considerably older, for the term Quartalsmusik is attested to in Hamburg as early as 1675.20 The multiple performances of a work meant that the text of the worship music—unlike the practice current elsewhere—was not strictly focused on the readings of the given feast day, but rather dealt with more general basic themes of the particular feast. If two independent pieces were played before and after the sermon, then generally the second was expressly chosen for its appropriateness to the occasion. Bach’s performance repertoire of Quartalstücke is almost completely documented only for Easter and Michaelmas; for Christmas, and particularly for Pentecost, we have information on only a few individual works that Bach performed.21 The presence of multiple figured continuo parts in different pitches indicates that the same piece was performed in more than one main church, because the tuning of the organs varied. On the other hand, it cannot be excluded that Bach, like Telemann, used different pieces in one “cycle”; this might explain why comparatively few Quartalstücke for the Christmas and Pentecost seasons have been identified.

Appearing within CPEB:CW, V/2 are the eight cantatas Wq 241–247 and 249, listed in NV 1790 as Bach’s compositions. A number of these works prove to be pasticcio compositions, containing, for instance, individual movements by Bach’s father and brothers. It seems justified to include these pasticcios with Bach’s performance repertoire of Quartalstücke, as they represent considerable efforts of Bach’s own, be it through the inclusion of substantial movements of his own composition—arias or choral movements—or through the compilation from various sources, whereby a new work is created that goes markedly beyond the simple reworking and adaptation of another’s work. Other ganze Musik compositions with prominent compositional involvement by Bach are included in CPEB:CW, VIII/2 (Arrangements). This corresponds to the system within NV 1790, which at least in its very beginnings is traceable back to Bach himself, where works of this kind are entered under the rubric “Einige vermischte Stücke” (several miscellaneous pieces; NV 1790, pp. 65–66).

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 Leisinger 1991, 112–22; and AK 1805, facsimile in Kulukundis, 145–76.

4. Sanders, esp. 83–94.

5. See Leisinger 2002, esp. 117. See also Sanders, 134–35.

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

7. CPEB-Briefe, 1:132; CPEB-Letters, 13–14. The first question C.P.E. Bach asked was “On which Sundays and feast-days from January until Easter are musical performances given in the churches of Hamburg?” See also Leisinger 2002, 107–19.

8. See Wiermann.

9. Because of the central place of the sermon the main morning service was also designated as the “main sermon.”

10. On the Vesperordnung of 1699, and the Gottesdienstordnung of 1789, see Sanders and Neubacher.

11. Bach adopted the abbreviations used in the Schreib-Kalender to indicate the place of performance in the sources from his collection: “P.” stands for St. Petri, “N.” for St. Nicolai, “C.” for St. Catharinen, “J.” for St. Jacobi, and “M.” for St. Michaelis.

12. Extra vesper services had to be dispensed with when multiple feast days followed one another (such as at Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost) in which the ensemble was already committed to perform at another church.

13. The ganze Musik in almost all cases required large performance forces; the terms ganze and große versus halbe and kleine Musik are not always clearly distinguished.

14. This is well documented in the literature, including Neubacher; Sanders; Wiermann; and Joachim Kremer, Das norddeutsche Kantorat im 18. Jahrhundert (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1995).

15. One of these was reserved for the yearly installation of Juraten at each respective church. Juraten were members of the parish (Kirchspiel) supporting the pastors in administrative matters, such as supervision of the assets and accounting. The Juraten were elected for two years but had overlapping tenure.

16. In Lent, instead of the cantatas, Evangelist Passions (see preface to CPEB:CW, IV/4–7) were given in the context of the high service, under the leadership of the music director. Trumpets and timpani were typically reserved for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Michaelmas cantatas.

17. One exception is the pasticcio Der Gerechte, H 818, which adopted a motet from Bach’s great-uncle Johann Christoph (1642–1703) and was first performed on the 16th Sunday after Trinity 1774; see also NV 1790, p. 66.

18. C.P.E. Bach to G.M. Telemann, 31 January 1771. CPEB-Briefe, 1:209–10; CPEB-Letters, 22. This plan, however, was not realized.

19. Kremer, 398ff.

20. Originally, the term may have been coined in connection with the quarterly payments of the musicians’ salaries at Christmas, Easter, St. John the Baptist, and Michaelmas.

21. A coherent cycle of performances could not be formed at the end of the John the Baptist quarter; additionally the differing orientation of content for St. John’s feast day and that of the Visitation must have excluded the use of one and the same text.