As a professional baroque musician, J. S. Bach worked for the city, the court and the church and, privately, as a teacher of music and composition. When working for the city he wrote the "secular" cantatas to celebrate such occasions as the installation of new city councils, or the start of the term of a new mayor. While writing for the court, he wrote chamber music such as the Cello Suites, and the Sonatas and Partitas for Violin, as well as a large amount of keyboard music.
While working for the Lutheran church Bach set himself the task of writing a "well-regulated" body of music for performance during church services, which sometimes went on for hours. About 200 church cantatas survive, along with many passions and organ pieces.
Bach based much of his music on popular hymn tunes of the day, called chorales. Some of these chorale melodies were very ancient, some quite modern. Many can be traced to their sources, which range from old chant to secular dance to composite melodies put together in the fashion of the Meistersingers.
Bach's four part harmonizations of these tunes are still sung in churches and schools and are used everywhere to study harmony and composition.
German titles of the chorales are sometimes the first line of the stanza Bach used in the cantata, and sometimes the title of the modern melody of the chorale. This makes any decision about naming the melodies very difficult and arbitrary. I have used the name by which the original base melody seems to be best known in Germany, but occasionally, someone writes to me to correct a title. Unfortunately, there is always some confusion about the names, and listing all the names of each chorale in every location would not be feasible.
A definition of the chorale may be found at:
Grove Dictionary of Music definition
Check out some books about Bach, including a bibliography of sources used in preparing these files.
For general information about Bach, check out these pages.
David Grossman maintains a superior page and has a listing of all the chorale titles: Bach Work Catalog, the Vocal Chorales.
MIDI files contain computer information about music. They can be:
imported into a notation program and printed out,
imported into a sequencer and played through a MIDI instrument or sound module, or
They can be played directly from the Web or converted to a QuickTime movie with QuickTime. The movie file can be played with QuickTime MoviePlayer. For this you will need the necessary sound cards in your computer and the QuickTime Musical Instruments in your extensions folder.
If you don't have one, you can download other MIDI players or plugins..
Software to unzip compressed files is available.
ABC's of Using MIDI Files has valuable information about how to use MIDI files.
For more MIDI files, visit Standard MIDI Files on the Net: the internet midi community's comprehensive list of sites with midi files.
Here is a QuickTime file of the Liszt piano transcription of the second movement of Beethoven's Fith Symphony for Download.
Here is an mp3 file of The Weather Report by the Mastersingers for Download.
And for violinists, here is a pdf file of Dounis Daily Dozen for Download.