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…Published in