Forthcoming Title: Commentaries on the Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: An Interactive Companion by Hans-Joachim Schulze, Translated by James A. Brokaw II

IOPN is thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Commentaries on the Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: An Interactive Companion by Hans-Joachim Schulze and translated by James A. Brokaw II. Hans-Joachim Schulze is the preeminent authority on Bach’s music, and his 2006 book provides concise, detailed commentaries on all 225 Bach cantatas known at the time. Schulze’s essays originated as weekly broadcasts on German radio beginning in 1990, in which he strenuously avoided technical language, aiming the discussions at a general audience while keeping the connoisseur in mind. The series was quite popular, and was repeated several times before Schulze published his scripts as a book in 2006.

In making this translation available, IOPN has joined with the University of Illinois Press in a first-ever partnership. The Press is publishing a print version of Brokaw’s work containing a selection of the essays. The IOPN digital edition contains all 225 essays, as well as additional tools for searching, sorting, and grouping the essays by date of composition, liturgical or secular occasion, librettist, and more.

Having spent much time in the study of Bach’s keyboard music, I wanted to better understand the cantatas, another genre that truly encompasses Bach’s entire creative career—and translating Schulze’s book offered a wonderful opportunity.

Moreover, Schulze’s foregrounding of text was a big selling point for me. As a German major in college I found the Baroque era in German literature to be particularly interesting, formed as it was in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War. Schulze’s book, which considers Bach’s cantata texts in that context as well as that of their biblical origins, is quite illuminating.

Because of my experience as a custom software developer, the structure of the book with its 225 free-standing essays appealed to me because I felt it made a web-based digital solution not only feasible but desirable. — James A. Brokaw II

Schulze’s approach differs from prior approaches to Bach’s cantatas which tended to dismiss their texts as inferior and irrelevant. Instead, Schulze foregrounds the text and its evolution, examining its theological grounding along with the music as inseparable parts of a whole. In addition to the translation, Brokaw has also supplemented the text with footnotes that provide readers with references to more recent Bach scholarship since the publication of Schulze’s work. Brokaw has now made these essays available in English for the first time, opening up fundamental scholarship on Bach to a whole new audience.

Commentaries on the Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: An Interactive Companion will be published by IOPN under the Windsor & Downs imprint with an expected publication date of May 7, 2024. Commentaries on the Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A Selective Guide will be published by the University of Illinois Press on the same day.