45 Bach Harmonizations of Sol–(Sol)–Fa–Me–Re–(Re)–Do

Several people have compiled different Bach harmonizations of the same chorale tune in order to better study the Bach chorale style. I wanted to find many different harmonizations of a single phrase, so I found and compiled 45 different harmonizations of Sol–(Sol)–Fa–Me–Re–(Re)–Do (or 5–(5)–4–3–2–(2)–1 in minor) from among Bach’s 371 chorales.

Below this paragraph is a link to a pdf containing all 45 harmonizations, all of which have been transposed to the key of e minor for easier comparison. On this sheet they are categorized by melodic phrase structure, since there are slight variations among the 45. Listed first are the Sol–Sol–Fa–Me | Re–(Re)–Do phrases (the vertical line indicating a barline). These are further categorized by their place within the chorale: first come final phrases, then come internal phrases. Listed second are those phrases in which the descending line appears only in the second half of the phrase, as a fragment of a larger phrase. Following these are the Sol | Fa–Me–Re–Re | Do phrases, then the Sol–Fa–Me–Re | Do phrases, and finally a small miscellaneous group of variants. My reasoning for categorizing the phrases this way is to facilitate better in depth study into the Bach chorale style. For example, in the first category, Sol, Fa and Re all appear on strong beats. In other categories, these three may appear on weak beats. How does Bach harmonize these differently based on metric placement?

PDF of all 45 Harmonizations

Below are listed the 45 harmonizations in consecutive order (based on the Riemenschneider numbering). Also given are the original key and source of each chorale, and a YouTube video of the phrase if available. (There are some wonderful performances included!)

  • Chorale 8, phrase 1, (f) (Cantata No.40)
  • Chorale 13, final phrase, (a) (Cantata No.33) YouTube
  • Chorale 15, final phrase, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 30, phrase 2, (e) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 30, final phrase, (e) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 55, final phrase, (b) (Cantata No.110) YouTube
  • Chorale 59, final phrase, (g) (St. John Passion) YouTube
  • Chorale 71, phrase 4, (e) (Cantata No.177) YouTube
  • Chorale 78, final phrase, (b) (St. Matthew Passion) YouTube
  • Chorale 96, phrase 1, (d) (Cantata No.87) YouTube
  • Chorale 96, final phrase, (d) (Cantata No.87) YouTube
  • Chorale 100, phrase 4, (c) (Cantata No.18) YouTube
  • Chorale 105, final phrase, (b) (St. Matthew Passion) YouTube
  • Chorale 111, final phrase, (a) (St. John Passion) YouTube
  • Chorale 119, final phrase, (c) (Cantata No.176) YouTube
  • Chorale 129, final phrase, (e) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 132, phrase 3, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 132, phrase 10, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 132, phrase 16, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 138, phrase 1, (e) (Cantata No.64)
  • Chorale 138, final phrase, (e) (Cantata No.64)
  • Chorale 184, final phrase, (d) (Cantata No.4) YouTube
  • Chorale 237, final phrase, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 240, final phrase, (a) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 242, final phrase, (e) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 261, final phrase, (e) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 263, phrase 1, (e) (Motet, "Jesu Meine Freude") YouTube
  • Chorale 263, final phrase, (e) (Motet, "Jesu Meine Freude") Youtube
  • Chorale 267, final phrase, (d) (Cantata No.90) YouTube
  • Chorale 281, final phrase, (g) (Cantata No.89) YouTube
  • Chorale 283, phrase 1, (e) (Motet, "Jesu Meine Freude") YouTube
  • Chorale 283, final phrase, (e) (Motet, "Jesu Meine Freude") YouTube
  • Chorale 287, final phrase, (a) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 297, final phrase, (g) (Cantata No.78) YouTube
  • Chorale 304, final phrase, (g) (Cantata No.5) YouTube
  • Chorale 307, phrase 5, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 321, phrase 4, (g) (Cantata No.40)
  • Chorale 321, final phrase, (g) (Cantata No.40)
  • Chorale 324, phrase 1, (e) (Cantata No.81) YouTube
  • Chorale 324, final phrase, (e) (Cantata No.81) YouTube
  • Chorale 331, final phrase, (b) (Cantata No.136)
  • Chorale 356, phrase 1, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 356, final phrase, (d) (Unknown)
  • Chorale 360, phrase 4, (b) (Christmas Oratorio) YouTube
  • Chorale 360, final phrase, (b) (Christmas Oratorio) YouTube

I thought about creating a "WWBD" ("What Would Bach Do?") quiz for those who pride themselves on being experts of the Bach chorale style, using statistics a la the late theorist Allen Irving McHose. (His theory book from the 50s is chock full of detailed Bach chorale statistics!) After coming up with three questions and realizing just how nerdy I am, I figured that further data compilation will have to wait for another day, perhaps after my huge Chorale Pedagogical Project is complete, which at this pace will be 50 years from now.

Below is my 3–question quiz. Granted, questions #2 & #3 are quite difficult considering the relative small number of phrases we’re looking at. They may not represent an accurate picture of the Bach chorale style. But hopefully it’s fun nonetheless. Answers are in the comments section.

Question #1. Of the 45 harmonizations, 29 are phrases that end the chorales in which they appear. Of those 29 final phrases, how many end with a picardy cadence?

A) 29 (All of 'em!)
B) 26-27 (The vast majority)
C) 18-20 (More than half)
D) 10-12 (Less than half)
E) 2-3 (Just a couple)
F) 0 (None of 'em!).

Highlight box below to reveal answer:

  B; 27 of 29 contain picardy cadences

Question #2. In the 13 phrases in which Me appears on a strong beat (i.e. Sol–Fa–Me–Re | Do), how often does a cadential 6/4 appear?

A) 13 (Every time!)
B) 10 (Usually)
C) 6-7 (About half)
D) 3 (Not often)
E) 0 (Never!)

Highlight box below to reveal answer:

  D; Only 3 of 13 contain cadential 6/4s. I probably would have guessed more.

Question #3 has two parts. In the 36 phrases in which Re spans two beats (strong-weak) (i.e. Sol | Fa-Me-Re-Re | Do), how often is the strong-beat Re harmonized with a ii chord and how often is the strong-beat Re harmonized with a tonicization of V?

ii chord:
A) 22 times (61%)
B) 17 times (47%)
C) 10 times (28%)
D) 5 times (14%)

x/V chord:
A) 22 times (61%)
B) 17 times (47%)
C) 10 times (28%)
D) 5 times (14%)

Highlight box below to reveal answer:

  ii chord: A; 22 of 36.
  x/V chord: D; Only 5 of 36.