Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bach's Awesome Mass in B Minor

By now, some of you all who read my Blog may know that I am an "Ardent Lover of Sacred Choral Music" as well as of "Classical Music".

Well, here is another one for all those who are just like me.

Although Mozart, Beethoven, Palestrina, Tomas Luis De Victoria, and Handel happen to be my favorites -- I do like listening to some compositions of Bach which were composed purely for "Liturgical Services".

In my humble opinion -- Mozart's Coronation Mass, Mozart's Grand Mass in C Minor, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, and Beethoven's Mass in C truly rock but I do believe that Bach's Mass in B- Minor is an awesome composition that competes well with the Masses that I have mentioned above.

In this connection, it is interesting to note that Bach was actually a Lutheran who lived in Germany but composed his awesome Mass in B- Minor with -- it seems a "Catholic Setting in Mind" and modelled it extensively on 'Catholic Liturgy as it existed in the 18th Century.

Some Catholics may wonder why I am blogging about Bach who was a Lutheran ?

Well, I strongly believe that anyone who loves Sacred Choral Music and essentially Church Music is not confined to whether these Composers were Catholic or not.

Although, I do prefer "Catholic Composers" -- I am open to good Sacred Music even if the composer in question was from 'The Russian Orthodox Church'.

I have come across these awesome and inspiring Links connected to Bach's Mass in B- Minor and would like to share them with you all.

Here are two snippets from two articles, I recently came across on the web.

Check out all the Links to know more about this awesome "Mass in B- Minor".

1) From:

Bach's output of religious music based on Latin texts was not insignificant. Besides the B Minor Mass, he composed the Magnificat, 4 "short" masses, and 5 settings of the Sanctus. Since the churches in Leipzig were Lutheran, one may wonder why the Roman Catholic mass was being set to music.

In fact, Luther had retained the Kyrie, Gloria in excelsis, Credo, and Sanctus movements of the Catholic Ordinarium Missae for use in Protestant churches. Thus, in Leipzig, perfomances of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Sanctus were not uncommon during Bach's lifetime.


"Mass in B Minor — Bach’s only complete setting of the Latin Ordinary of the Mass"

by John Butt

J. S. Bach --

On 27 July 1733 Bach petitioned Friedrich August II, the new elector of Saxony, for a court title that would boost his status as the somewhat beleaguered Kantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. The ‘trifling product’ that Bach enclosed was the set of beautifully prepared presentation parts for a missa, the Kyrie and Gloria that later became the first part of the Mass in B Minor. In scale and idiom the missa seems designed for the mass repertory typical of Dresden.

Bach re-used some of the missa music in the mid-1740s for the Latin cantata ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ BWV191. It is possible that the D major Sanctus composed for Christmas 1724 was performed on the same day (perhaps celebrating the peace of Dresden in 1745, concluding the second Silesian war). Thus the juxtaposition of these two works, related as they are to the Latin Ordinary, may have inspired Bach to compile a missa tota in the remaining years of his life, perhaps in response to his first and only personal experience of the horrors of war.

However, we know of no definite occasion for the performance of the mass as a whole. There is some circumstantial evidence to link it with further commissions from, or presentations to, the Dresden court but it is eminently possible that Bach compiled it with no specific occasion or performance in mind, and that it belongs among the increasingly abstract and ‘speculative’ cycles from his later years, such as Clavier-Ubung III or The Art of Fugue.

Bach drew much of the material for the Mass in B Minor from existing works, producing a veritable compendium of all the styles he had employed in the composition of arias and choruses throughout his career. There is almost the sense that he was scanning his career to compile some of his ‘greatest hits’. The ‘lack’ of originality is more than adequately compensated by the skill with which he adapted the material to fit the new context. Furthermore, by abstracting movements from some of his finest vocal works, originally performed for specific occasions and Sundays within the Church’s year, he was doubtlessly attempting to preserve the pieces within the more durable context of the Latin Ordinary. Although many of the movements lack existing models is may well be that they reflect lost cantatas — both sacred and secular.

Of the movements for which models survive, ‘Crucifixus’ comes from the earliest traceable source for any movement in the entire mass — the first section of the chorus opening Cantata 12, ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’, composed in Weimar for 22 April 1714. Here Bach adds the interlocking flute lines, the throbbing crotchet movement in the continuo, and the four-bar introduction of the ground bass. The final four bars, with the extraordinary move to G major, are new in ‘Crucifixus’, perhaps representing Christ lowered into the sepulchre, or the redemption achieved through Christ’s death.

Read More at:

3) "Another Awesome Perspective on the Mass in B- Minor"

4) (Listen to most parts of this Mass at this Link)

5) (Listen to two parts of this awesome Mass at this Link)

Note: Check out new posts that I will be making on Tomas Luis De Victoria, Beethoven, and Mozart starting from tomorrow.

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