Editions of Johann Sebastian Bach's Works
Steve Rasmussen, Ed. Inventions
Bach-Gesellschaft Canons
Chamber Music
Keyboard Music
Orchestral Music
Vocal Music

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Overview of repertory:
J. S. Bach composed music in all the prevailing genres of his time. For voices he composed cantatas, masses, and oratorios. His instrumental works include concertos and sinfonias for orchestra and an enormous amount of keyboard music, for both organ and harpsichord.

Method of identification of works:

Overview of sources used:
Our encodings of the music of Bach concentrate on the Werke of the Bach-Gesellschaft (67 vols., Leipzig: Breitkopf und Hätel, 1851-99) as their point of departure. Some elements of the original notation have been modernized and many problems have been resolved. Works now known to have been spuriously attributed to Bach are excluded.

Reference catalogue:
Wolfgang Schmieder's Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (3rd edn., Leipzig, 1966) is our principal source for information. It is commonly known by the abbreviation BWV.

A new catalogue of Bach's work, the Bach=Compendium (4 vols. to date, Leipzig: Peters, 1983-89) employs a categorical numbering system with additional numbers for individual works. It is currently in preparation by Christoph Wolff and Hans Joachim Schulze. Categories are represented by letters. Thus where E=masses, E 2 is the B-Minor Mass of 1733.

The existing volumes of the Compendium cover the vocal music of Bach; we await the completion of the volumes covering instrumental music before adding this reference information to our files.

Work titles/numbers:
Work titles generally follow those in the sources used. However, there are many sources of confusion and complication.

The most pervasive problem of work-identification in Bach's music has to do with the identification of the four-part chorales. Our encodings include only those chorales for which there is a distinct BWV number (BV 253-438). However, many repertory books prepared for students and performers provided a considerably greater number of items with independent numbering systems. Thus, those approaching our data holdings from their other perspectives may have some difficulty in matching up works. Their favored items may be chorales taken from Bach's very numerous cantatas, for this was a principal source of additional items for the expanded list of "four-part chorales".

Bach did not help matters either. He set some of the same chorales as many as five times, so a mere title-search will not always solve the problem. We hope to provide a table of concordances for the chorales utilizing the information in the Bach=Compendium.

Movement titles/numbers:
Movement titles and numbers are generally not problemmatical in Bach's music. However, cataloguing systems impose limitations of their own. For the paired preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier, for example, Schmeider provides only one number for each set. Thus BWV 846 comprises both the Prelude in C Major and the Fugue in C Major. Title-names thus become essential to differentiate these works, but within the Schmieder system they effectively function as movement numbers.