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Bach Oratorios Program Notes and Sheet Music

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Date of Composition: 1707-1749

Instrumentation: Solo voices, choir, and orchestra

Duration: Approximately 1-3 hours


Bach wrote a total of 20 oratorios, which are large-scale choral works that tell a story from the Bible. The Oratorios are some of Bach's most ambitious and complex works, and they are considered to be masterpieces of Baroque choral music.

Bach's Oratorios were written for use in Lutheran church services. The Lutheran Church does not have a set liturgy for the Oratorio, so Bach was free to compose the Oratorios in his own style.

The Oratorios are scored for solo voices, choir, and orchestra. The orchestra consists of strings, woodwinds, brass, and continuo. The Oratorios are in a variety of styles, including chorale settings, fugues, and concertos.


Bach's Oratorios are a showcase for his mastery of counterpoint, orchestration, and melody. The Oratorios are full of beautiful melodies, rich harmonies, and expressive rhythms. Bach uses a variety of musical techniques to create a sense of joy, praise, and wonder.

The Oratorios are a popular choice for performance by choral groups and orchestras. The Oratorios are also often performed in churches and other religious settings.


Bach's Oratorios have been praised by critics and musicians alike. They are considered to be some of the most beautiful and important works of Baroque choral music. The Oratorios are often performed by choral groups and orchestras around the world.

Here are some of the most notable features of Bach's Oratorios:

  • Use of a variety of musical styles
  • Beautiful melodies
  • Rich harmonies
  • Expressive rhythms
  • Masterful use of counterpoint, orchestration, and melody
  • Popular choice for performance by choral groups and orchestras
  • Often performed in churches and other religious settings

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Here are some of Bach's most famous Oratorios:

  • Christmas Oratorio (1734-35): A six-part cantata cycle for Christmas
  • St. Matthew Passion (1727): A two-part oratorio for Good Friday
  • St. John Passion (1724): A two-part oratorio for Good Friday
  • Magnificat (1723): A cantata for the Feast of the Annunciation
  • Passion According to St. Mark (1731): A one-part oratorio for Good Friday

His Oratorios are a testament to his genius as a composer, and they continue to be performed and enjoyed by audiences around the world.

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