Reconstructing Chorales: How can Bach Chorales be arranged or played differently? Are there typical kinds of harmonization named by criteria? What would be the effects? Some styles will be better and some worse ...

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As we can see a Chorale setting can easily be made better or worse!

Knecht and Wedeburg are describing the following textures:

Homorhythmic with upper three voices in close position

  • Wide gap between bass and tenor

  • Older method, for beginners

  • Simple rhythms in opening position

  • Tenor is lower than in the close style

  • Harder because left hand and pedal are now independent

  • More active rhythm, still in open position

  • All voices may be ornamented, even the soprano

  • Bach’s chorales from the cantatas belong to this type

The “Full-voiced Style” appears in Example 5c, where, according to Knecht and Wiedeburg, parallel octaves and fifths are allowed (Knecht 1795–98, 3:76; Wiedeburg THEORY and PRACTICE Volume 42 (2017)36 1765–75, 2:293-94).

  • Usually parallel 5ths and 8ves are allowed in the middle voices if the outer voices move in good counterpoint

    enter image description here

  • Avoid thirds in the left hand (too thick)

  • Single voice doubled in three or four octaves with pedal

  • Used in congregatio nal singing for variety


  • 3.1: Ornamented bass & varied harm.

  • 3.2: Ornamented A, T, and B

  • 3.3: All voices ornamented (also chorale in soprano)

  • 3.4: Contrapuntal, canonic, or fugal ornamentation

  • 4.1a: Thick chordal texture; middle voices may have parallel 5ths and 8ves

  • 4.1b: Variation: Hold chords half value, always sustaining the soprano

    enter image description here

  • 4.2: Five or six independent ornamented voices without parallels

*Five textures for realizing a figured-bass chorale from Knecht (1795–98, 3:20, 36, 82–107), Werner (1805, 1–9), and Wiedeburg (1765–75, 2:293–96


J. S. Bach’s Chorales: Reconstructing Eighteenth-Century German Figured-Bass Pedagogy in Light of a New Source Derek Reme


  • I’ve tried to blow up the picture and added the link to the original source. – Albrecht Hügli Oct 4 at 10:58

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