Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Music



First Advisor

Dr. Melissa Mackey

Second Advisor

Dr. Pamela Stover

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas Worthen


Johann Sebastian Bach is credited with writing over 300 cantatas. Sacred cantatas comprise most of that repertory, but there are just under forty known secular cantatas composed by Bach. About half of these secular cantatas were written to celebrate a person’s birthday. This thesis will attempt to provide a view of the life of the historical figures for which the birthday cantatas were written, reflections of the personality of the individual in the cantata, Bach’s relationship to the recipient, and political or social connotations associated with the work. From a study of the individuals connected with the musical work, a more thorough understanding of the time period in which Bach lived and worked may be gained. This in turn will provide a more complete understanding of Bach’s birthday cantatas.

This thesis will not address recipients of name day cantatas nor will it address recipients of birthday cantatas that were not fully preserved. These are the historical figures and works that will be examined: Duke Christian of Saxe-Weißenfels, including references to Dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208; Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, Durchlauchtster Leopold, BWV 173a; Crown Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony, Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213; Maria Joseph, Archduchess of Austria, Electress of Saxony, Queen of Poland, Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten, BWV 214; and Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland Schleicht, spielende Wellen, BWV 206.




This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.