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On-line Book Review




Dimension: 19.0 x 12.4 x 1.4 cm

TITLE Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Motetten von Klaus Hofmann
PUBL. DETAILS Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 2003. 263p; Paperback. Eur 16.95.
ISBN 3-7618-1499-2
TO ORDER Bärenreiter-Verlag, Heinrich-Schütz-Allee 35, D-34131 Kassel, Germany.


DESCRIPTION an up-to-date monograph of Bach's motets.
WORKS COVERED BWV 2, 11-12, 16, 28, 38, 64, 68, 71, 81, 87, 106, 131, 144, 156, 171, 190, 213-14, 222, 225-230, 1083, Anh.159-160.
READERSHIP students and general readers who are studying Bach's motets.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION comprehensive and systematic treatment of the subject in a pocket-size monograph; an excellent reading for undergraduate students studying Bach's motets.

Among Bach’s vocal works, his motets are very distinct in several ways. We do not know, for example, on what occasions some of them were composed for. The issue of durability is another: unlike his cantatas, these motets were continually sung in Leipzig even after Bach’s death, which is illustrated most vividly by the anecdote of Mozart’s first encounter with ‘Singet dem Herrn’ in Leipzig in 1789.

This owes very much to their musical style that is firmly rooted in the sacred music of Bach’s previous generations. But it is with additional layers of sophistication, common in Bach’s other works, that makes Bach’s motets special.

Contents in brief 



Motettenbegriff und Werkbestand

Zur Geschichte der Gattung

Zur Aufführungspraxis


Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (BWV 225)

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (BWV 226)

Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 227)

Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir (BWV 228)

Komm, Jesu, komm (BWV 229)

Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden (BWV 230)

Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn (BWV Anh.159)

Jauchzet dem herrn, alle Welt (BWV Anh. 160)


Anmerkungen; Ausgaben und Literatur;
Personenregister; Werkregister

marriage between the accessibility and scholarly contents

This book under review is the latest addition to a series of pocket-size books called “Bärenreiter Werkeinführungen”, a well known series among scholars. This is an up-to-date monograph on Bach’s motets, and it is clear that the author examined all the major publications in this area including the books by Daniel Melamed (Cambridge, 1995) and Leuchtmann and Mauser (Laaber, 1998).

When compared with the two books mentioned above, it would appear that the main attractiveness of this book is the marriage between the accessibility and scholarly contents. In the introduction, Hofmann convincingly puts Bach’s motets in historical context, outlining the genre, its historical background, and Bach’s output. This is followed by a more extended examination of the genre from historical angles. Using many music examples, this section itself will serve as excellent reading for students studying ‘motet’ in their study at university.

The second half of the book is dedicated to the discussion of eight motets in the order of BWV, and not in the chronological order of composition. Each motet is discussed fully and in a well-organised manner, first exploring its possible origins from the available sources, then move on to discuss individual movements analytically. There are many facsimile reproductions and musical illustrations, which illuminates the discussion. As a companion for studying Bach’s motet, this book is particularly easy to use, thanks to its comprehensive index and endnotes. This book is a must for any university libraries.


Published online in 16 March 2004