BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Sunday Cantata
"Wake, awake, for night is flying". Perhaps the greatest of all the cantatas, based on one of the greatest Lutheran hymns, by Philipp Nicolai. Based on the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25), its subject matter is the love between, and the approaching wedding feast of, Christ and the Church.
BWV 70 Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!, Sunday Cantata
"Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!" Since Jesus will soon return to judge the living and the dead, and our lives can end at any moment, Christians ought to be watchful and diligent in prayer – and joyfully confident in the joy Jesus has prepared for them.
BWV 116 Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, Sunday Cantata
"You prince of peace, Lord Jesus Christ". The hymn by Jakob Ebert on which this chorale cantata is based was written as a prayer for peace in time of war. It is an act of repentance over our sins and an entreaty to Jesus, the prince of peace, to bring peace into our present suffering.
BWV 26 Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, Sunday Cantata
"Ah, how fleeting, ah, how insubstantial". A chorale cantata based on a hymn by Michael Franck, which laments the brevity of human life – and therefore placing one's trust in God and His eternal faithfulness.
BWV 80 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, Sunday Cantata
"A mighty fortress is our God". A triumphant setting and expansion of Luther's famous battle hymn of the Reformation.
BWV 109 Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben, Sunday Cantata
"I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief". Drawing on the account of Jesus' healing of the official's son in John 4, offering comfort to the weak in faith that whoever trusts in Jesus will never be disappointed.
BWV 180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, Sunday Cantata
"Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness". A chorale cantata, setting and expanding one of the great Lutheran communion hymns, by Johann Franck.
BWV 56 Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, Sunday Cantata
"I would gladly bear the cross-staff". A work for bass solo, this cantata is a declaration of confidence in God's love through Jesus Christ. Even suffering and death, when received from God's hand, can be received with joy.
BWV 169 Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, Sunday Cantata
"God alone shall possess my heart". A work for alto solo, this cantata is a response to the double-commandment of love, to love God above all things and your neighbour as yourself.
BWV 47 Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden, Sunday Cantata
"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled". A call to humility in the face of God's glory and human sinfulness, with a prayer to Jesus to grant such humility.
BWV 95 Christus, der ist mein Leben, Sunday Cantata
"Christ, who is my life". A reflection on Jesus' raising of the son of the widow of Nain, this cantata is built around four Lutheran funeral hymns. It expresses the Christian hope that death holds no fear for those whose Saviour Jesus is.
BWV 51 Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, Sunday Cantata
"Shout for joy to God in every land". An exuberant solo cantata for soprano, calling God's people to praise Him for His faithfulness. This cantata closes with an extraordinary 'Alleluia' for soprano and solo trumpet.
BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele, Sunday Cantata
"Jesus, by whom my soul". A chorale cantata based on a hymn by Johann Rist, in which the Christian takes comfort in the sufferings of Jesus for our salvation.
BWV 33 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, Sunday Cantata
"On you alone, Lord Jesus Christ". A chorale cantata based on a hymn by Konrad Huber, a reminder that our loving God is our only lasting hope.
BWV 35 Geist und Seele wird verwirret, Sunday Cantata
"Spirit and soul are thrown into confusion". A solo cantata for the alto, based on Jesus' healing of the deaf and mute man (Mark 7), marvelling at God's miraculous care for His children. [Translation of the libretto]
BWV 199 Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, Sunday Cantata
"My heart swims in blood". This early solo cantata for soprano solo is a reflection on Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18), pleading for the forgiveness of sins.
BWV 101 Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, Sunday Cantata
"Take from us, Lord, you faithful God". A chorale cantata based on a penitential hymn by Martin Möller, begging for God's merciful forgiveness of our sins and release from their just punishment.
BWV 94 Was frag ich nach der Welt, Sunday Cantata
"What is the world to me". A chorale cantata based on a well-known Lutheran hymn. The message of the hymn is that the vanishing treasures of the world are nothing compared to the true, eternal treasure, Jesus.
BWV 178 Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns hält, Sunday Cantata
"If God, the Lord, does not stay with us". A chorale cantata based on one of the very earliest Lutheran hymns, written by a friend and colleague of Martin Luther. It is a paraphrase of Psalm 124, reminding us that it is only the grace of God that can save us from our spiritual enemies: sin, death and the devil.
BWV 187 Es wartet alles auf dich, Sunday Cantata
"The eyes of all look to you". This cantata draws on texts from both the Old and the New Testaments to reassure us that we can trust God since He has provides for us and has promised to care for us.
BWV 170 Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, Sunday Cantata
"Contented peace, beloved joy of the soul". This cantata for solo alto reminds us that true and lasting peace and joy can only be found in God's kingdom.
BWV 93 Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, Sunday Cantata
"If thou but trust in God to guide thee". A chorale cantata based on a hymn by Georg Neumark, this work calls on the Christian to trust in God's goodness and guidance in all circumstances.
BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, Sunday Cantata
"I had much affliction". The distressed soul calls to God for relief, and Jesus responds with the promise of peace and unending care.
BWV 2 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, Sunday Cantata
"O Lord, look down from heaven, behold". A chorale cantata based on Luther's paraphrase of Psalm 12. A prayer of the faithful for the protection of God's holy word against heresy and false belief.
BWV 39 Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, Sunday Cantata
"Share your bread with the hungry". A call for Christians to care for the needs of the hungry and poor – and to give thanks to God for all the good things He has done for us.
BWV 129 Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott, Sunday Cantata
"The Lord, my God, be praised". A chorale cantata for Trinity Sunday, setting the words of this well-known hymn of praise by Johannes Olearius.
BWV 74 Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, Sunday Cantata
"If anyone loves me, he will keep my word" (John 14:23). A Christian implores Christ to dwell in him and never leave him. Christ promises to make His dwelling place in everyone who believes in Him (John 14:28), which is the source of the Christian's hope and joy.
BWV 11 Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, Sunday Cantata
"Praise God in His kingdoms" – the Ascension Oratorio. [Translation of the libretto]
BWV 87 Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen, Sunday Cantata
"Until now you have asked nothing in my name" (John 16:24). A call to fervent prayer: since we have transgressed God's will and failed to believe the Gospel, we must entrust ourselves to His promise to have mercy on us.
BWV 166 Wo gehest du hin?, Sunday Cantata
"Where are you going?" (John 16:5). A reminder to Christians not to be falsely attached to this world but always to have in mind the promise of eternal life.
BWV 12 Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, Sunday Cantata
"Weeping, lamentation, worry, apprehension" (John 16:20). Jesus turns our sorrow into joy.
BWV 104 Du Hirte Israel, höre, Sunday Cantata
"Hear, O shepherd of Israel" (Psalm 80:1). A meditation on Jesus as the Good Shepherd of His flock, who will feed and tend them.
BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, Sunday Cantata
"On the evening of the same Sabbath" (John 20:19). Jesus is in the midst of His children, and and he is their shield against temptation. [Translation of the libretto]
BWV 4 Christ lag in Todes Banden, Sunday Cantata
"Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands". Written when Bach was only 22, this is one of his finest cantatas. It sets the words of Luther's great Easter hymn, celebrating Jesus' victory over death.
BWV 182 Himmelskönig, sei willkommen, Sunday Cantata
"King of heaven, be welcome". As Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and was welcomed by His disciples, so Christians are called to welcome Jesus in faith.
BWV 161 Komm, du Süße Todesstunde, Sunday Cantata
"Come, sweet hour of death". The soul’s eager longing to be finally united with Jesus—an encounter that makes the hour of death itself a sweet hour.
BWV 157 Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn, Sunday Cantata
"I will not let go of you unless you bless me" (Genesis 32:26). A funeral cantata, entrusting oneself to Jesus, as the only trustworthy comfort.
BWV 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus), Sunday Cantata
"God's time is always the best time". One of Bach's best-known and most beautiful vocal works, this funeral cantata sets a collection of funeral sentences, which remind us of our mortality and call us to place our trust in God's promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
BWV 150 Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, Sunday Cantata
"To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul". Bach's very first cantata, a setting of Psalm 25.
BWV 131 Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, Sunday Cantata
"Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord". A penitential cantata, setting Psalm 130.
BWV 22 Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, Sunday Cantata
"Jesus took the twelve". A prayer to Jesus to draw us to Himself, to enable us to follow Him, so that nothing will cause us to lose our salvation.
BWV 126 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, Sunday Cantata
"Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy word". A chorale cantata paraphrasing and elaborating on one of Luther's best-known hymns, calling on God to protect His children by the power of His word from the enemies of the faith.
BWV 84 Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, Sunday Cantata
"I am content with my fortune". An acknowledgement that everything we have is from God, that all of it is an unmerited gift, and that Christians have the hope of a better reward than what this life offers.
BWV 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen, Sunday Cantata
"My sighs, my tears". A call to the troubled and anxious to turn to God in prayer: He will not fail to help.
BWV 154 Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren, Sunday Cantata
"My dear Jesus is lost". Mary and Joseph despaired when the boy Jesus was lost to them in Jerusalem (Luke 2), and rejoiced at finding Him. Likewise, the soul to whom Jesus is lost because of sin and unbelief must despair, but rejoices when it learns again to trust Jesus' word of promise.
BWV 65 Sie warden aus Saba alle kommen, Sunday Cantata
"All those from Sheba shall come". As the wise men from the East came to worship Jesus with their gifts (Matthew 2), Christians, too, are called to offer themselves to Jesus in the confidence that He will graciously receive us.
BWV 122 Das neugeborne Kindelein, Sunday Cantata
"The newborn little child". This is a chorale cantata based on a 16th-century Christmas hymn, rejoicing that Jesus' coming into the world has taken away the condemnation of our sins and opened the way to paradise.
BWV 132 Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!, Sunday Cantata
"Prepare the ways, prepare the paths!" A call to repentance and faith in anticipation of the coming of Christ to judge the world.
BWV 62 Nun komm, den Heiden Heiland, Sunday Cantata
A chorale cantata paraphrasing and meditating on the ancient Advent hymn, "Saviour of the Nations Come".
BWV 31 Schwingt freudig, euch Empor, Sunday Cantata
"Soar joyfully aloft". Based on Psalm 24, this cantata in the promised coming of Christ, who is the King of Glory.