Texts of the Complete Vocal Works

with English Translation and Commentary


Z. Philip Ambrose


This Bach site offers English translations to the vocal works of J. S. Bach along with introductory information on the sources and on performance history of each work. Commentary on the text is found in footnotes which are quickly opened by clicking on the footnote number.


  •   German text beside a revised English translation of BWV 245 St. John Passion.
  • German text alone of BWV 245 Johannes-Passion.
  •  Revised English text alone of BWV 25 ST. John Passion.
  • Revised BWV 118 and its revised version (BWV 118b) O Jesu Christ, mein Lebens Licht.
  •  Text and translation of BWV 1127 now available on this site.  
  •  Text and translation of BWV 246 (Lukaspassion), not attributed to Bach, now available on this site.

    Please note: These translations may be used gratis in programs and program notes for concert performances with the following acknowledgment:

    © Z. Philip Ambrose, translator, Web publication: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach

    There is now available a revised version of these translations in book form. Use of these is also permitted gratis for programs and program notes for concert performances with the following acknowledgment:

    Z. Philip Ambrose, J.S. Bach: The Extant Texts of the Vocal Works in English Translations with Commentary Volume 1: BWV 1-200; Volume 2: BWV 201- (Philadelphia: XLibris, 2005).

    For all other uses permission must be granted by contacting
    Z. Philip Ambrose at Philip.Ambrose@uvm.edu or by writing to

    Z. Philip Ambrose
    Department of Classics
    The University of Vermont
    481 Main Street
    Burlington, VT 05405.

    Some of my translations originally appeared in The Texts to Johann Sebastian Bach's Church Cantatas (Hänssler-Verlag: Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1984). To these are added now the remaining works. The translations are unrhymed but follow the meter and word-division of the originals exactly so that they match their musical placement. While this means that they could be sung, they are not meant primarily for singing but as an aid to performers and listeners for interpreting the original texts. Ideally those original texts should be set to the left of these translations. While some of the works are themselves fitted out with the originals (and this includes all of the works in the Appendix, i.e., those works for which we assume Bach composed music but do not have the music), most do not have the original texts. Users of this site, therefore, are encouraged to use the links to the splendid sites of Jan Koster and Walter F. Bischof to find the original texts. Bischof's site has the capability for searching the original texts. To correlate the sacred cantatas with modern liturgical lectionaries use the link to Dimmock's site.

    To my daughter Julia Ambrose Viazmenski and my son-in-law Alexei, who have with great diligence entered this project into this site, I am deeply grateful. I can only understand such an effort as a labor of love.