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Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts

An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Allusions

Melvin P. Unger

The German church cantata of the eighteenth century was the culmination of a long tradition of Lutheran "sermon music" that used the proclamation, amplification, and interpretation of scripture to teach and persuade the listener. Bach's cantatas also served this didactic purpose and typically incorporate numerous allusions to scriptural passages or themes in their librettos. Unfortunately, many of these passages remain obscure to the twentieth-century musician because they demand a much closer familiarity with the Bible than is common today. The Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts identifies scriptural references for the wording, imagery, and themes that Bach's listeners would have known. In addition, the religious or literary theme of each text is summarized within the specific context of the cantata as a whole. With interlinear translations and a full complement of indexes. « less more »
Scarecrow Press
Pages: 780Size: 8 3/4 x 11 1/2
978-0-8108-2979-4 • Hardback • April 1996 • $171.00 • (£110.00) - Currently out of stock. Copies will arrive soon.
978-1-4616-5905-1 • eBook • April 1996 • $169.99 • (£110.00)
Melvin P. Unger is director of the School of Music at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
...a work that can give the reader a clearer understanding of the meaning of Bach's numerous sacred cantatas...the price is most reasonable for such a substantial work.
American Reference Books Annual

...attentive to the more difficult turns of phrase that can be disguised or otherwise compromised in 'poetic translations'...

To understand the relation between [Bach's cantata texts] and the scriptures—which in Bach's time were common knowledge—is of utmost importance...[Unger's] extensive work is an important source for all who want to further their understanding of Bach's church cantatas...
Helmuth Rilling, Director, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart

In all, for both its careful translations and exegesis of the Bach texts, this will be a valuable addition to academic and large public libraries serving a specialized music audience.

...for libraries, choral directors, music ministers, singers, instrumentalists, and fans, this volume is a wonderful investment...what more can you ask for? ...in a very handy form. Included is a wealth of information that has previously been available only by consulting a number of other books (some in German). The work includes a good selected bibliography and a number of extremely helpful indexes...this is the finest one-volume reference book on Bach's cantatas in English and will do a lot to stimulate both general and scholarly interest in these magnificent works.
American Record Guide

Unger has provided a reference work of great importance and value...a wide use of this Handbook is warmly recommended.
Alfred Mann, Professor Emeritus, Eastman School of Music

...this work (book) has inestimable worth.
Karl Hochreiter

To guide modern performers and listeners towards a better understanding of the theological and liturgical context for Bach's cantatas, a number of reference works dealing with their texts have appeared, beginning with Rudolf Wustmann's Joh. Seb. Bachs Kantatentexte (Leipzig, 1913). Such works have established the sources - biblical passages, chorales, and poetry - of Bach's cantata texts, specified their position in the liturgical calendar, and provided non-German speakers with translations. Melvin P. Unger's Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts: An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Allusions, goes a step further by identifying not only specific passages from the bible, but also allusions to other passages an eighteenth-century worshiper, better versed in the bible than his modern counterpart, would have understood.
ECCB: The Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography

...this comprehensive handbook...tells us what quotations and allusions there are in every cantata movement...a very useful guide...
Bach Bibliography

• Winner, 1998 National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Publication, Presented by the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors