Home » Funeral Ideas » Funeral Music Ideas » Bach Funeral Music

5 Best Pieces of Bach Funeral Music

Bach has enriched music halls across the world since his popularity exploded after his death. One of the many reasons Bach’s music serves so perfectly at funerals is because of Bach’s interesting ideologies regarding death. A few years prior to his death, Bach had become almost infatuated with death; a deeply religious man, Bach saw death as a cause for celebration. The day of his death would be the day he meets God. Unlike most of us, he felt no fear in the face of death, and instead delineated his excitement to visit Heaven through the medium of music. This is why Bach’s music provides such comfort to those who are grieving. His music provides a soothing, bittersweet perspective on passing- one which will be particularly appreciated among religious folk at funerals. However, the classical use of musical elements will be sure to please the irreligious too!

Most Popular Bach Songs

This article features the following funeral songs, among other variations

  • Come, Sweet Death (Komm, Süßer Tod), BWV 478
  • St. Matthew Passion BWV 244/Part 2: No. 39, ‘Erbarme Dich’
  • Funeral Cantata for Köthen, BWV 1143
  • Vor Deinen Thron Tret’ Ich Hiermit, BWV 668
  • Laß, Fürstin, Laß Noch Einen Strahl, BWV 198
Table Of Contents

Come, Sweet Death (Komm, Süßer Tod), BWV 478

Purchase Come, Sweet Death Via Apple Music

Famous Covers

Many amazing versions of this piece exist, including my person favourite: the choral rendition conducted by Eric Whitacre and performed by his eponymous Singers. This piece is especially perfect for a church funeral.

This Baroque treasure from the twilight of Bach’s life follows contemporary musical doctrine, utilising a solo vocalist and a basso continuo accompaniment. In typical Bach fashion, this vocal chamber music piece carries great depth of tone and emotionality. Written 14 years before his eventual death, this piece evokes just how little Bach feared his own mortality. This piece hence can provide great reassurance to mourners at a funeral, providing a novel perspective on impermanence.

“Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest!. Come lead me to peace.because I am weary of the world,O come! I wait for you,come soon and lead me,close my eyes.Come, blessed rest!”

St. Matthew Passion BWV 244/Part 2: No. 39, ‘Erbarme Dich’

One of the many arias featured in Bach’s sacrosanct oratorio St Matthew Passion, this piece would fit perfectly in any funeral- especially those celebrating the life of a Christian. However, this piece transcends religiosity, offering comfort to all with dulcet tones and musical fervour. St. Matthew Passion was debuted at St. Thomas Church on Good Friday, 1727, but the BWV 244 edition of the Passion was released later by Bach. There are also revisions of this piece composed by Bach in years preceding his own passing (1743-1746) so you’ll be sure to find the perfect version to commemorate your loved one.

“Have mercy,My God, for the sake of my tears! Look here, My heart and eyes weep before you Bitterly.”

Funeral Cantata for Köthen, BWV 1143

Purchase Funeral Cantata Via Amazon Music

Famous Covers

Other editions of this funeral cantata can be found on Amazon, including renditions performed by Ensemble Pygmalion and Deutsche Hofmusik, so you’ll be sure to find the perfect edition to venerate your loved one.

Otherwise named Klagt, Kinder, Klagt es Aller Welt BWV 244a, this cantata features music adapted from the same portion of St. Matthew Passion as Erbarme Dich. This works particularly well in the case of this song, which has survived as a popular funeral song since its first performance on the 24th of March, 1729. This performance was in remembrance of Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, a prominent prince of the House of Ascania in Germany. Leopold has been immortalised by his employment of Bach in life, and that timelessness carries perfectly in this funeral song. The original music of this song is lost to time, but contemporary musicians have created renditions based upon what remains of Bach’s original score beautifully. Our personal favourite rendition can be found via this link, a recreation of the arcane cantata composed by Andrew Parrott, a musical investigator devoted to the recreation and rediscovery of lost music. The aria tutti (last song) from this cantata would be particularly well-suited in a funeral setting, but any song from this cantata would fit well. The lyrics to the aria tutti are detailed below.

“Our eyes now look unto thy body, Our mouth into the tomb doth call: Sleep securely, rest content Find new life in heaven’s kingdom! Take a final fond good night From thy people who adore thee, Who in thy behalf are saddened, Who thy heart most dear did hold, Where thy fame hath immortal rank attained.

Vor Deinen Thron Tret’ Ich Hiermit, BWV 668

Purchase Vor Deinen Thron Tret’ Ich Hiermit Via Amazon Music

Famous Covers

A great composition by Capella Istropolitana exists, including melodies from BWVs 651 to 668 can be purchased if the original piece doesn’t evoke the right feelings. No matter what, you’ll be sure to find the ideal version of this tune for your tastes!

As a devout Lutheran, Bach possessed a unique view on death, seeing it as a gift awaiting him at the end of a long life. Death, to Bach, was simply a long-awaited opportunity to meet God. Upon his deathbed in the days preceding his death, he modified his original piece, Vor Deinen Thron Tret’ Ich. This improved edition would serve as the perfect send-off for any loved one, inducing equanimity and understanding in listeners.

“Before your throne I now appear, O God, and beg you humbly Turn not your gracious face From me, a poor sinner. Confer on me a blessed end, On the last day waken me Lord, That I may see you eternally:Amen, amen, hear me.

Laß, Fürstin, Laß Noch Einen Strahl, BWV 198

Purchase Laß, Fürstin, Laß Noch Einen Strahl Via Amazon Music

Famous Covers

Many instrumental versions of this cantata exist due to the popularity and replicability of this BWV in comparison to other Bach works, so you’ll be sure to find the ideal composition to fit any theme. Our favourite classical funeral ode from this cantata is that performed by the Collegium Vocale Gent, as it provides both dulcet basso continuo tones with a calming clarinet melody.

One of the only secular musical pieces composed by Bach, this cantata possesses many different songs suited for feature in funerals. There are ten songs in this cantata to choose from, dependent on whether a vocal or instrumental melody would be preferred. There is plenty of vocal excellence exhibited in these pieces, owing to the use of soprano, alto, tenor and bass vocalists on different songs. Our favourite aria from this cantata is Verstummt, Verstummt, Ihr Holden Saiten, a soprano aria featuring calming vocals and ethereal instrumentals, inspired by Bach’s love of musico-mathematical techniques in composition. The libretto of this aria is detailed below.

“Be silent, be silent, you sweet strings! no sound could express the country’s distress at the death of their dear mother, Oh sorrowful word!