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We find such a symmetric outline in many pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach,19 but only in a few cases is this outline as consequent as in the B Minor Mass. The parts Kyrie, Gloria and Credo are all designed with choral sections as the outer movements, framing an intimate center of theological significance. According to Christoph Wolff , the Mass can be seen as a "kind of specimen book of his finest compositions in every kind of style, from the stile antico of Palestrina in the 'Credo' and 'Confiteor' and the expressively free writing of the 'Crucifixus' and 'Agnus Dei', to the supreme counterpoint of the opening Kyrie as well as so many other choruses, right up to the most modern style in galant solos like 'Christe eleison' and 'Domine Deus'".

Given Bach's Lutheran background and the history of the composition, developed over several decades, he deviated from the typical structure of the mass in five parts, Kyrie , Gloria , Credo , Sanctus and Agnus Dei. He had composed the Sanctus in , and the Missa consisting of the Kyrie and the Gloria in When he compiled the mass, he used these parts, added the Credo , including new compositions, and concluded with Osanna , which is normally part of the Sanctus.

The work is scored for five vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra. Its movements are listed in a table with the scoring of voices and instruments, key , tempo marking , time signature and source. The voices are abbreviated S for soprano , A for alto , T for tenor , B for bass. Bach asked for two sopranos. Practical performances often have only one soprano soloist, sharing the parts for the second soprano SII between soprano and alto.

Instruments in the orchestra are three trumpets Tr , timpani Ti , corno da caccia Co , two flauti traversi Ft , two oboes Ob , two oboes d'amore Oa , two bassoons Fg , two violins Vl , viola Va , and basso continuo. The continuo is not mentioned in the table as it is present all the time.

The other instruments are grouped by brass, woodwinds and strings. Bach based movements of the Mass in B minor on earlier compositions. What is known about reworked earlier material is indicated in the last two columns of the table earlier composition; year of composition , including some educated guesswork, as found in the indicated scholarly literature. This does not include the version of Part I the movements that constitute the Kyrie and Gloria , but earlier compositions which Bach used as basis for that version.

Kyrie and Gloria.

Et in terra pax hominibus (English translation)

The section Kyrie is structured, following tradition, in a threefold acclamation of God, a chorus for the Kyrie I, a duet Christe, and a different chorus for Kyrie II. The three notes B, D and F-sharp form the B minor triad. Butt notes D major as the central key, corresponding to the "atonement of Christ". The Gloria is structured in symmetry as a sequence of choral movements and solo movements, arias and a central duet, in three sections. The first is opened with a chorus followed by an aria, closed in the last section in symmetry by an aria followed with a chorus; the middle section alternates choral music with solo movements.


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The central duet is in the "lowly" key of G major, referring to Christ as a "human incarnation of God". The first movement is scored for five-part choir, woodwinds and strings. As the Dresden Mass style required, it opens with a short homophonic section, [18] followed by an extended fugue in two sections, which both begin with an instrumental fugue.

Christoph Wolff notes a similarity between the fugue theme and one by Johann Hugo von Wilderer , whose mass Bach had probably copied and performed in Leipzig before Wilderer's mass also has a slow introduction, a duet as the second movement and a motet in stile antico , similar to late Renaissance music , [4] as the third movement. The vast movement has aspects of both a fugue and a ritornello movement. In the second fugal section, the instruments begin in low registers, and the voices build, with every part first in extremely low range, from bass to soprano I.

In both sections, the instruments open the fugue, but play with the voices once they enter. The acclamation of Christ stresses the second person of the Trinity and is therefore rendered as a duet of the two sopranos. Probably a parody of an earlier work, it is Bach's only extant duet for two sopranos, stressing that idea.

The second acclamation of God is a four-part choral fugue, set in stile antico, with the instruments playing colla parte. The first entrances build from the lowest voice in the sequence bass, tenor, alto, soprano. The Gloria is structured in nine movements. The first and last are similar in style, concertante music of the eighteenth century.

The text of the Hymnus Gloria begins with the angels' song from Luke 's Christmas story. Bach used this section, the central duet and the concluding doxology as a Christmas cantata , Gloria in excelsis Deo , BWV Glory to God in the Highest , probably in , a few years before the compilation of the Mass.

The opening is set as a five-part chorus, beginning with an instrumental presentation of the material. The continuation of the thought within the angels' song, " Et in terra pax " and peace on earth , is in common time. The duration of an eighth note stays the same, Bach thus achieves a contrast of "heavenly" three eights, a symbol of the Trinity, and "earthly" four quarters.

An aria for soprano II and obbligato violin express the praise and adoration of God in vivid coloraturas. A four-part chorus in stile antico illustrates the idea of thanks and praise, again with trumpets and timpani. It is based on the first choral movement of Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir , BWV 29 , [9] which also expresses the idea of thanks to God and praise of his creation but this cantata movement may have been derived from an even earlier source [33].

Finzi's In Terra Pax

The first part of the text, devoted to thanks, is a melody in even tempo that rises gradually and falls again. The voices enter without instrumental support in dense succession. The countersubject on the second line "propter magnam gloriam tuam" for your great glory , devoted to the glory of God, is more complex in rhythm. The section addressing God as Father and Son is again a duet, this time of soprano I and tenor.

The voices are often in canon and in parallel, as in the Christe. As the Christe, it is a love-duet addressing Jesus. Both duets appear as the center of the symmetry within the respective part, Kyrie and Gloria. Here an obbligato flute opens a concerto with the orchestra and introduces material that the voices pick up. Rathey points out, that the scoring at first glance does not seem to match the text "Domine Deus, Rex coelestis" Lord God, Heavenly King , but it matches the continuation "Domine Deus, Agnus Dei" Lord God, Lamb of God , stressing the Lutheran "theologia crucis" theology of the cross that the omnipotent God is the same as the one revealed on the cross.

When the text reaches the phase " Qui tollis peccata mundi " who takest away the sins of the world , the music is given attacca to a four-part choir with two obbligato flutes. The continuation of the thought, " Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris " who sits at the right [hand] of the Father , is expressed by an aria for alto and obbligato oboe d'amore. In Bach's earlier settings of the mass he had treated "Qui tollis and "Qui sedes" as one movement, here he distinguished Jesus at the right hand of the father by dance-like music.

Homophony in Dance and March

The last section begins with an aria for bass, showing " Quoniam tu solus sanctus " For you alone are holy in an unusual scoring of only corno da caccia and two bassoons. Probably a parody, it is the only movement in the work using the horn. The repeated figure of an anapaest provides the "rhythmic energy of the texture.

On the continuing text " Cum sancto spiritu " with the Holy Spirit , the choir enters in five parts, in symmetry to the beginning. A homophonic section is followed by a fugue.


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The text of the profession of faith, Credo , is the Nicene Creed. It is structured in three sections, regarding Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Bach follows the structure, devoting two choral movements to the first section, beginning the second section with a duet, followed by three choral movements, and opening the third with an aria, followed by two choral movements. The Crucifixus is also the oldest music in the Mass, dating back to The chant melodies are devoted to two of the key words of this part: Credo I believe and Confiteor I confess.

The Credo begins with " Credo in unum Deum " I believe in one God , a polyphonic movement for five-part choir, to which two obbligato violins add independent parts. The theme is a Gregorian Chant , [49] first presented by the tenor in long notes on a walking bass of the continuo. The other voices enter in the sequence bass, alto, soprano I, soprano II, each one before the former one even finishes its line. The two violins enter independently, reaching a seven-part fugue. In the second exposition sequence of fugue entries , the bass voice is missing, leading to anticipation and a climactic entry in augmentation long notes beginning the third exposition, just as an entry of the first violin ends the second exposition.

Musicologist John Butt summarizes: "By using numerous stile antico devices in a particular order and combination, Bach has created a movement in which a standardised structure breeds a new momentum of its own". This movement in stile antico contrasts with the following modern concerto-style movement, Patrem omnipotentem. Et in terra pax. View Details. Events you might like:. Music Performance. Share this event. Music Party. Music Seminar. Save This Event Log in or sign up for Eventbrite to save events you're interested in.

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