Leaving Cert Music – Bach

Hi guys,

With the leaving cert fast approaching I decided to put together a few notes on Bach.

Bach background:

Þ    Germany, born 1685

Þ    Church organist

Þ    Mainly church and organ music

Þ    Virtuoso organist

Þ    Contrapuntal in style

Þ    Word painting in his chorales

Þ    Rich contrapuntal textures

Þ    Melodies played on different instruments

Þ    Modulated to related keys


Baroque Period and Style:


Þ    1600 – 1750  =  Baroque period

Þ    ornate an dramatic

Þ    all phonics used

Þ    continuo used

Þ    imitation and canon common

Þ    melody elaborate and ornate

Þ    irregular phase lengths

Þ    melismatic

Þ    small orchestra – continuo, strings, wind such as flute oboe an later bassoon, brass of trumpets and horns

Þ    limited instruments

Þ    timpani use occasionally

Þ    Full SATB choir, all male

Þ    Contrast


Baroque Form:

Ritornello       –          based on a recurring idea

Aria               –               A vocal piece from an opera or cantata written for solo or duet singing. Elaborate, ornate, melismatic.

Recitative      –           The words are an important feature, usually syllabic

Cantata          –           music for solo voice with orchestral accompaniment

Chorale          –           Simple Lutheran hymn

Chaconne     –           Uses a ground bass that passes into upper parts



Þ    Violins

Þ    Violas

Þ    Violone/ouble bass

Þ    Continuo – Cello and Organ

Þ    Oboe

Þ    Horn

Þ    Flauto traverse – flute


Bach’s Cantata:


Movement Form Voice Key Time
1. Chorus Chaconne/Ritornello SATB G min 3-4
2. Duet Aria Da Capa Aria S & A B flat C
3. Tenor Recitative Recitative secco T C
4. Tenor Aria Dal Segno ABB’ T G min 6-8
5. Bass Recitative Recitative Accompagnato B E flat- F min C
6. Bass Aria ABA’ B C min C
7. Chorale AABC SATB G min C


Main Features:

Movement 1:

  • G minor
  • Ritornello form – recurring orchestral theme/section, heard 7 times (different each time)
  • Chaccone – ground bass theme heard in continuo and upper instruments and voices (oboe, descending chromatic)
  • Chromatic/austinato theme in ground bass – descending chromatic line, ends perfect cadence
  • Grief motif – syncopated rhythm, woodwind, strings
  • Joy motif three note idea, bar 17, continuo, canon
  • Chorale theme bar 21 in ¾ time, soprano, repeated notes, altered to fit time sig, flute double 8ve+.
  • SATB choir
  • Violin, violas, violone (double bass), continuo, flute, oboe, horn
  • Polyphonic (mainly)
  • Bass voice doubles continuo, bar 61
  • Voices enter imitively from bar 90 on
  • Full of perfect cadences
  • Mirror canon on oboes
  • Longest movement
  • Tonic pedal bar 68-71
  • Sequences used (lots)
  • Trills used
  • Mainly syllabic
  • Opening – homophonic
  • Horn doubles soprano line but not printed on score


2nd movement:

  • Aria Duetto
  • Duet – soprano and alto
  • Organ, cello, violine (double bass – octave lower than written)
  • B flat major
  • Ternary form ABA
  • Mainly polyphonic, also homophonic
  • Recurring instrumental ritornello
  • Pizzicato and staccato adds to happier mood
  • Feeling of a walking bass throughout – feeling of hurrying
  • B section – minor with slower rhythms and more sustained notes
  • Dialogue
  • Sequences
  • 4 bar instrumental in C minor Bar 61-64
  • Bar 32 – harmony 6th, soprano and alto
  • Da capo Aria – returns to beginning
  • Syllabic and melismatic
  • Vocals singing in canon and together
  • Use of rests
  • Word painting:


Þ    Bar 85-86 – freulich – means joyful, fast and lively, clearly heard by the way it’s sung

Þ    Bar 64-67, pause, rests, words stand out, Act! Hore – O Here, both voices sing it together, repeated 3 times.

Þ    Bar 9-10 – eilen means hurry, melismatic, lots of notes, busy, hurrying


Movement 3:

  • Tenor and continuo
  • Secco – sparse accompaniment
  • Atonal, ads to despair and feeling of isolation
  • Melody full of wide leaps ( intervals)
  • Sound obscure
  • Accompaniment is block chords and long sustained notes
  • Tenor Recitative – clamatory speech
  • Augmented intervals
  • Diminished chords in harmony
  • Dramatic speech
  • Short movement
  • Mostly syllabic
  • Melismatic – erzurnet (angry)
  • No key signature and no form – ambiguous


4th Movement:

  • Tenor Aria
  • G minor
  • Only movement in 6/8 time
  • Binary form ABB1
  • Dal Segno at the end – repeat – return to sign
  • Flute and continuo
  • Melismatic
  • Repetition
  • Light hearted and melodic
  • Recurring instrumental riternello – sequences used
  • Ascending scale nearly 2 octaves
  • Has an upbeat
  • Appoggiatura – type of ornamentation
  • Counter melody 0 bar 21
  • Bar 21-22 descending repeated notes continuo
  • Word painting:


Þ    Stehet – stand, dominant pedal, long sustained notes, held nearly 4 bars

Þ    Striete – to fight, sung aggressively, melismatic, loud

Þ    Behertz – brave, repeated, rests, wide leaps, rising – courageous


5th Movement:

  • Sparse accompaniment, same as movement 3 but more active
  • Mainly syllabic, – one note per syllable
  • Contrast in tempo, texture, mood, accompaniment, tonal centre
  • Recitativo accompagnato – active accompaniment
  • Last section more ornamented and melismatic
  • Perfect cadence at end – in F minor
  • Bass with strings and continuo
  • Bass recitative
  • E flat – G minor – F minor


6th Movement:

  • Bass aria
  • C minor
  • Bass voice
  • Strings, continuo, oboe
  • A more concerto style
  • Recurring instrumental ritornello theme
  • Elaborate free flowing oboe solo – semi quavers, sequences an scales
  • ABA1
  • Perfect cadence at riternello theme
  • Trill repeated
  • Upbeat
  • Dal Segno
  • Narrow range


7th Movement:

  • Chorale (verse 12 of original hymn)
  • G minor
  • SATB Choir:  Soprano         – doubled by flute, oboe, horn and violin

Alto                 – doubled by oboe and violin

Tenor              – doubled by viola

Bass               – doubled by continuo (cello and organ)

  • 4 four bar phrases AABC
  • Homophonic
  • Repeated notes
  • Cadence every 2 bars (imperfect and perfect)
  • Tierce de Picardy – ends on a major chord
  • Contains all features of the piece
  • Bass- very busy
  • Balanced

Best of luck 🙂

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *