Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
the Mass is generally considered
to be exclusively part of the Roman Catholic liturgy, it is also
very much the basis for the Lutheran liturgy. When he broke from
the Catholic Church in 1521, Martin Luther had numerous concerns
about Catholic policies but not with the liturgical practices.
in 1523 when Luther produced a document describing the liturgy of
the newly founded Lutheran church, he modeled it extensively on
the Catholic liturgy with which he and his followers were familiar.
And Luther specified that five familiar sections (Ordinaries; see
paragraph below) should still be used in the original Latin, which
the rest of the liturgy would now be translated into the language
of the people in the congregation, German. (Incidentally, three
years later, Luther made further changes to this original Lutheran
liturgy; at this time, he eliminated some of the Latin pieces altogether,
and the rest he translated into German hymns.) Luther's main idea
in developing the new liturgical practices was adaptability: composers
and clergymen could use the Latin or the German, use more complicated
arrangements for the choir or simpler versions for the congregation
to sing, based on what they felt best reflected the needs and strengths
of their congregation.
Many different prayers, musical items, responses, Biblical readings,
and texts comprise the liturgy known as the Mass. These different
components fall into one of two categories: the Ordinary
and the Proper. The Ordinary
are those texts (which might be sung or spoken) which remain the
same everyday throughout the year. The Proper are those texts which
change daily. For example, on Christmas Day, the entrance hymn (a
Proper) sings about the birth of Jesus, but this would not be used
on Easter, which focuses on Jesus' resurrection.
who choose to set to music part of the Mass generally use the Ordinary.
Since the texts are used everyday, the composer's music could then
be used everyday as well. (With a musical setting of a Proper, a
composer might hear his or her work only once every three years!)
Mass in B Minor
is the only musical setting of the Latin Ordinary that Bach
wrote. In his Mass in B Minor, Bach sets to music
the traditional five texts of the Ordinary that composers
had focused upon for centuries. These are the Kyrie
(in English, "Lord, have mercy"), Gloria
("Glory to God in the highest"), Credo
("I believe in one God"), Sanctus ("Holy,
holy, holy Lord"), and Agnus Dei ("Lamb
of God"). Bach's setting is a little unusual in that
he separates the final section of text of the Sanctus
(beginning with the word "benedictus" and lumps
it together with the final movement, the Agnus Dei.
It is not clear whether Bach wrote the B minor Mass
for a Lutheran service, or for the city of Dresden, which was
primarily a Catholic city.
Bach never arranged for a complete performance of the B
Minor Mass and didn't even put a title on the collection,
which includes his music for all five Ordinaries
our day, most choirs perform and/or record the entire Mass
in B Minor. But there is no evidence that Bach ever arranged
for a complete performance of all movements. Instead, movements
were performed individually or in smaller groups at different
times and places. This really is no surprise, since the movements
were written at different times, rather than as one large
collection. The idea of a recital or public concert is a fairly
recent one, and sacred music (music for church) would never
have been performed outside a church service in Bach's day.
So when you think about it, the fact that the Mass in
B Minor was not performed in its entirety in Bach's time
makes sense -- these five musical pieces alone take almost
two hours to perform, and that doesn't include all the additional
prayers, readings, and the Propers. A complete performance
as part of the Catholic or Lutheran service could take well
more than three hours!!!
discoveries and work in Bach scholarship (during the 1990s that's
actually pretty recent) now leads us to believe that, in
fact, the B Minor mass was the last composition Bach
worked on before he died displacing The Art of the Fugue
(Kunst der Fuge) from that claim; furthermore, scholars now
think that Bach might have been considering the five
separate movements as part of the single entity, which we now
call the B Minor Mass.
| Gloria | Symbolum
Sanctus | Osanna
and Benedictus | Agnus Dei
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