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UBC Theses and Dissertations

J.S. Bach's pre-Leipzig binary form arias Hess, Andrea Noelle


For most of his adult life, Bach was required to compose cantatas on a regular basis for secular occasions and liturgical services. There has been much research on the great body of cantatas but relatively little research focusing on the arias, and even less on the aria forms utilized. Consequently, there are many aspects of Bach's vocal works and compositional processes that have yet to be researched in great detail. The purpose of this study is to identify, analyze, and trace the development of the binary aria form in Bach's pre-Leipzig cantatas. Bach's pre-Leipzig vocal works are more often than not greatly overshadowed by the monumental works he composed during his tenure at Leipzig. However, Bach was 38 years old when he left Cothen for Leipzig and well into his mature compositional style. During his years at Miilhausen (June 1707 to June 1708), Weimar (June 1708 to December 1717) and Cothen (December 1717 to May 1723), Bach composed over one hundred arias, roughly half of which can be classified as strict or free da capo form. Of the remaining fifty arias, fifteen have been identified as representative of binary aria form for this study. The following criteria were used to select the fifteen binary arias: (1) a bipartite structure with a major structural articulation near the middle of the aria, (2) a complete statement of the ritornello at the beginning and the end of the aria (and never in the middle of the A or B sections), (3) parallelism between the A and B sections, (4) a modulation away from the tonic in the A section followed by a return to the tonic in the B section, and (5) a relatively simplistic tonal scheme with not too many secondary tonal goals. The analysis will trace aspects of the development of the binary aria form including style, tonality, and integration of ritornello and solo elements. Additionally, stylistic evidence will be employed to prove or disprove current musicological findings regarding the dates for those cantatas that are in question.

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