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Veneration in Music

 

For many, music is an important part of worship, and the greatest composer of sacred music was Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1733 he composed his first church work in Latin, the Mass for the Dresden court, but it was not performed. He reused this Mass in the Kyree and Gloria section of his famous 1749 B-minor Mass. Bach venerated God with the declaration Jesu Juva (Jesus help me) at the beginning of his sacred music and Soli Deo Gloria  (Glory to God alone) at the end.

I’ve sung the 1745 Cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo (BWV-191), which was written for Christmas Day. The first movement is essentially identical to one in the B-minor Mass, with the final two movements different due to the text, making the Cantata a B-minor Mass “Mini-Me.” So instead of listening to the entire B-minor Mass (about two hours), you can hear this Cantata in about 15 minutes. And you’ll laugh at a short video about the Cantata below!

The first Cantata movement Gloria in excelsis Deo starts with a lively introduction, then the Altos start the Gloria theme (0:30). Both Sopranos (I, II) restart the theme (0.47) and finally all parts (1:15) have it. The next portion (Et in terra pax) starts abruptly (1:50), then goes into a 5 part fugue (2:58) with the Soprano I. The same fugue (Et in terra pax) returns (4:28) in the Altos, but it’s slightly different than the first fugue: *

The next two Cantata movements are the soprano/tenor duet Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto, followed with Sicut erat in principio sung by the Chorus. Unlike the B-minor mass, there are few good live Cantata performances on YouTube. Both movements are performed below, with the 3rd starting at (5:20):

Bach was such a genius that the 1733 Dresden Mass could be successfully used in the Cantata and the B-minor Mass. Bach is still venerated today for his music.

*About three years ago, I wrote a Ricochet post on the B-minor Mass, where this video can substitute for the missing Gloria. The last two movements of the Cantata correspond to the B-minor Mass videos Domine Deus and the Cum Santo Spiritu, the latter having a five-string (!) bass at 2:00. Now if I could only sing and play the string bass at the same time…

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There are 10 comments.

  1. Thatcher
    Vectorman Post author

    As a Bass singer, this video is a scream, but can be enjoyed by everyone:

    • #1
    • December 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

    I love Bach so much! I just listened to the whole thing and part of the bottom one. I didn’t know you sang. This thing is hard to sing breathing-wise if you want to avoid going “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”

    • #2
    • December 2, 2018 at 4:34 pm
    • 5 likes
  3. Member

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I love Bach so much! I just listened to the whole thing and part of the bottom one. I didn’t know you sang. This thing is hard to sing breathing-wise if you want to avoid going “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”

    Welcome back!

    • #3
    • December 2, 2018 at 4:47 pm
    • 5 likes
  4. Member

    I too love Bach. Thank you. 

     

    • #4
    • December 2, 2018 at 4:48 pm
    • 3 likes
  5. Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    I love Bach so much! I just listened to the whole thing and part of the bottom one. I didn’t know you sang. This thing is hard to sing breathing-wise if you want to avoid going “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha”

    Welcome back!

    Aww you missed me? Thank you, I missed you too!

    • #5
    • December 2, 2018 at 4:55 pm
    • 3 likes
  6. Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    As a Bass singer, this video is a scream, but can be enjoyed by everyone:

    I question whether that’s really a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). I’d have to ask my father, who sang in a Bach choir in his seminary days and especially appreciated performances of the B-minor mass, and who landed his first largemouth bass at age five. But he’s no longer with us.

    • #6
    • December 2, 2018 at 5:07 pm
    • 6 likes
  7. Member

    Bach is still ahead of his time. Or rather still in his time. He wrote his music for eternity and one hears it. 

    • #7
    • December 2, 2018 at 11:46 pm
    • 5 likes
  8. Contributor

    @vectorman moves us from architecture to music intended to invoke veneration. I pulled a recording of Bach’s Mass in B minor out of the CD rack to put into play rotation.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under December’s theme of Veneration. There are plenty of dates still available. Have you had an encounter with a saint, or someone who is truly venerable? Is there a sports figure who you believe is venerated, and what do you think of it? What is venerated in our society today? We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story to tell about nature, art, or architecture that points to subjects worth venerating. Have we lost the musical, written, visual language of veneration? The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. As a heads-up, our January theme will be Renovation. I’ll post the sign-up sheet mid-month.
    • #8
    • December 2, 2018 at 11:55 pm
    • 4 likes
  9. Member

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Bach is still ahead of his time. Or rather still in his time. He wrote his music for eternity and one hears it.

    I see him this way too. I think he would have approved of this – Bouree in E Minor (Jethro Tull did a very syncopated version of it too):

    • #9
    • December 3, 2018 at 8:02 am
    • 4 likes
  10. Contributor

    The Classical Music Discoveries podcast has a complete recording of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, performed by a minor orchestra and chorus in Germany.

    • #10
    • December 3, 2018 at 8:28 am
    • 2 likes