As historical musicology has grown in recent years to embrace cross-disciplinary perspectives and consider music not only on its own terms but also in relation to larger social, cultural, and historical trends, the study of the music of J. S. Bach has benefited from increased attention to the theological contexts in which Bach and his Lutheran contemporaries lived and worked. Within the context of this approach to understanding the church music of Bach and his contemporaries, this article explores Marian theology as communicated to congregants through church cantatas performed on Marian feast days (Purification, Annunciation, and Visitation). In other words, how might Marian theology have been heard by Lutheran congregants through church music of the early eighteenth century?

After providing an overview of the three Marian feasts in the Lutheran church year and outlining the research approach, the article analyzes the cantata texts for these three feast days in 57 sources published in the first half of the eighteenth century. It concludes with some broad reflections on the ways theology is communicated differently in church music (and particularly in church cantata texts in early eighteenth-century Lutheranism) than it is in other theological sources such as biblical commentaries or published sermons.

Author Biography

Mark A. Peters is professor of music at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. His primary area of research is sacred music of the Baroque period, and he is author of the monograph A Woman’s Voice in Baroque Music: Mariane von Ziegler and J. S. Bach (Ashgate, 2008). He has presented his research at meetings of the American Musicological Society, American Bach Society, Bach Colloquium, and the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music. Peters has served as secretary-treasurer of the American Bach Society and on the executive committee of the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music. His current research project explores theological, liturgical, poetic, and musical perspectives on the Magnificat in eighteenth-century Germany.

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