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Cantata BWV 19
Es erhub sich ein Streit
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of February 17, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (February 17, 2013):
Cantata 19: Intro., Chorales and Michaelfest Music

Following his chorale cantata setting of the canticle of praise, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (Lord God, we all praise you), BWV 130, for the Feast of Michael and All Angels in 1724, Bach in 1726 turned to the battle dictum, "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (There was a war) beginning the biblical Epistle reading from Revelation 12:7-12, for his next (third) cycle Cantata BWV 19, presented in 1726. Building on popular German tradition, Bach began utilizing various related themes melding praise and thanksgiving with the heavenly victory of the angelic forces over Satan and the forces of evil, thereby redeeming mankind. Collaborating with the poet Picander in Cantata 19 and the next Cantata, BWV 149, "Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" (Songs are sung with joy of victory), in 1728, Bach sought texts set to similar uplifting music.

Bach had begun in 1723 probably with musical underpinnings of the Epistle (Revelation 12:7-12) describing the Angels' metaphoric victory over evil in heaven and the canticle of Praise to God. These were found in Johann Christoph Bach's 40-year-old motet style "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (Rev. 12:7-11) as well as Verse 10b alone in Cantata 50, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (Now is salvation and strength). In 1724, Sebastian presented chorale Cantata130 that makes general references to the biblical lesson of the day as a tribute to the angels' protection of mankind. In 1726, Bach returned to and built on the dictum to open Cantata 19, based on the Epistle battle in Heaven that begins with a militant chorus fantasia using only Verse 7. He then presented music with the sentiments of joy found previously in the chorale, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir," celebrating and affirming divine intervention, protection, and salvation for mankind.

The impetus for all Bach's Michaelfest music was steeped in German musical tradition that used biblical texts set as motets and imaginative poetic paraphrase through Lutheran hymns. Following cousin Christoph's musical lead, Sebastian Bach's synthesis of Michaelfest original poetry produced four cantatas, BWV 130, 19, 149, and 50. Subsequently, sons Johann Christoph Friedrich and Carl Philipp Emmanuel would produce more Michaelfest music in the late 18th century gallant style.

Festive, intricate, militant - sometimes bellicose -- music for the Feast of Michael and All Angels came to dominate the Michael Festival works of German baroque composers, including the Bach Family, as contrasted to the chorale-based music of the Lutheran Reformers focusing on the hymn of praise, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir," also based on the Epistle for that feast day. For basic information on the Michaelmas Feast, see Wikipedia,

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner describes in detail the significance of angels for Bach as well as the Archangel Michael's triumph in his notes to the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 recordings of the four cantatas for the Feast of St. Michael (See BCW, Cantata 130 Details,, scroll down to Recording No. 11 [[sdg124_gb].pdf, scroll down to "Cantatas for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels"].)


"One only has to think of the Sanctus in the B minor Mass to realise that Bach took the Book of Revelation and the concept of the angelic hosts very seriously. Accordingly he believed in a cosmos charged with an invisible presence made of pure spirit, just beyond the reach of our normal faculties. As incorporeal beings, angels had their rightful place in the hierarchy of existence: humanity is ranked `a little lower than the angels' in Psalm 8. The concept of a heavenly choir of angels was implanted in Bach as a schoolboy in Eisenach, when even the hymn books and psalters of the day gave graphic emblematic portrayal of this idea; the role of angels, he was instructed, was to praise God in song and dance, to act as messengers to human beings, to come to their aid,
and to fight on God's side in the cosmic battle against evil. Probably no composer before or since has written such a profusion of celestial music for mortals to sing and play. From the initial planning of the pilgrimage
year I had marked September 29 as a red-letter day, and one to look forward to. A dazzling cluster of cantata-movements composed to honour the archangel Michael have survived from the most productive
years of Bach's cantata composition, the 1720s.

"Michael the archangel (the name means `Who is like God?') is one of the few figures to appear in the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha and the Koran. He appears as protector of the children of Israel (Daniel 12:1), inspiring courage and strength, and was venerated both as the guardian angel of Christ's earthly kingdom and as patron saint of knights in medieval lore, and, significantly, as the being responsible for ensuring a safe passage into heaven for souls due to be presented before God (hence the Offertory prayer in the Catholic requiem mass: `sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam' - `may the holy standard-bearer Michael bring them into the holy light'). Since it was first established under the Roman Empire some time in the fifth century, Michaelmas (Michaelisfest) had become an important church feast, coinciding with one of the traditional quarter days on which rents are levied and agreed in northern Europe, the start for many of the new agricultural year, and in Leipzig, with one of its three annual trade fairs. When Lucifer, highest of the Seraphim, led a
mutiny against God, he became transmogrified into the Devil, appearing either as a serpent or a ten-headed dragon; Michael, at the head of God's army in the great eschatological battle against the forces of
darkness, was the key figure in his rout."


Here is John Eliot Gardiner's notes (Ibid.) for Cantata BWV 19, "Es erhub sich ein Streit":

All Bach's music written for St Michael's day is immense in concept and sustained bravura. One senses that he was spurred on, inspired even, by the presence of a virtuosic group of trumpeters, the municipal Stadtpfeifer of Leipzig under their `Capo' Gottfried Reiche, just as Berlioz was a century or so later by the newly-available cornets à pistons and saxhorns. In BWV 19 Es erhub sich ein Streit Bach uses his brass instruments in highly contrasted ways: at one extreme obliging the listener to experience the scale and significance of these apocalyptic encounters in the opening chorus, at the other, in the E minor tenor aria (No.5), evoking the ever-watchful protection afforded by the guardian angels wheeling around in the stratosphere. Alfred Dürr explains that when they heard the trumpet play the chorale melody of `Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, O Herr' `the church-goers of Bach's day, familiar as they were with the text, could be in no doubt that the third verse of the hymn was intended: "Ah Lord, at the end of my life let Your dear angel carry my soul into Abraham's bosom"'. With unobtrusive skill Bach introduces this melody in counterpoint to the siciliano rhythms and the singer's tender plea `Bleibt, ihr Engel, bleibt bei mir!' (`Stay, ye angels, stay by me!').

Like "Nun ist das Heil," BWV 19 opens without instrumental preamble. But here it is the `war in heaven' itself which is described, not the victory celebration, and it is constructed as a monumental choral fugue with the singers as the main combatants. They lead the doubling instruments (strings and three oboes) into the fray with a ferocious confrontational swagger and impel the trumpets to follow in their wake. It is only when they pause for the first time in thirty-seven bars that the instruments really find tvoice (in a four-bar Nachspiel). But that is only the `A' section of an immense da capo structure. The `B' section starts out with the advantage tilted in favour of the `raging serpent, the infernal dragon' - another seventeen bars of `furious vengeance' dominated by the choir. As the singers catch their breath again, the orchestra advances the story, ending with a tell-tale hemiola revealing this to be the turning-point in the battle. Back come the choir, on their own now and in block harmony while the continuo rumbles on, to announce Michael's victory. But it doesn't end there: for the next twenty- five bars Bach shakes his kaleidoscope to give us a gleeful account of the final moments of the battle, the repulse of Satan's last attack by Michael's inner guard and a lurid portrayal of Satan's cruelty - a slow,
screeching chromatic descent in the sopranos - before the whole battle is relived again from the beginning.


Cantata BWV 19, "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (There was a war) was the first of two successive Michael cantatas of the late 1720s utilizing poetic texts of Bach's chief librettist and collaborator, Picander. Bach already had in hand the text template in Picander's published strophic poem for Michael's Day 1724/25, as well as the choice of chorales and the movement structure. Details of Cantata 19, including Francis Browne's English translation, Julian Mincham's informative commentary, the two discussions, and the Recordings (some with liner notes), are found at BCW, Of special note is Thomas Braatz' BCW commentary, quoting in translation "Alfred Dürr (with some of my own additions)," The Dürr source is <The Cantatas of JSB>, now available in the Richard D. P. Jones revision and English translation (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005: 698ff).

Bach utilizes two chorales in Cantata 19, the Michaelfest chorale melody, "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr," in the trumpet in the tenor aria (Movement No. 5), described in detail in the Braatz Commentary (Ibid.), and the closing plain chorale (No. 7) using the popular communion hymn, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly,o my soul), and most appropriately, Stanza 7, with final trumpet flourish:

Laß dein' Engel mit mir fahren
Auf Elias Wagen rot
Und mein Seele wohl bewahren,
Wie Lazrum nach seinem Tod.
Laß sie ruhn in deinem Schoß,
Erfüll sie mit Freud und Trost,
Bis der Leib kommt aus der Erde
Und mit ihr vereinigt werde.

Let your angel travel with me
on Elias' red chariot
and preserve my soul
like Lazarus after his death.
Let my soul rest in your bosom
fill it with joy and consolation
until my body comes from the earth
and is united with it.
[Francis Browne English translation, BCW,]

Risking redundancy, here are my notes from the two previous BCW Discussions, Cantata BWV 130 and Cantata BWV 220:

"Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr" (From my heart I hold you dear, o Lord), Martin Schalling (1569), 3 stanzas, especially Stanza 3, Ach, Herr, laß dein' lieb' Engelein/ Am letzten End' die Seele mein/ In Abrahams Schoß tragen! (Ah Lord, let your dear angels/ at my last end carry my soul/ to Abraham's bosom). It is based on Psalms 18 (The Lord rewarded me) and 73 (Here this, all ye peoples). Besides "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir," it was the "other hymn attested for this festival in the hymn schedules" of Dresden and Leipzig, as well as Weißenfels, says Stiller (Ibid.). It is found in the NLGB No. 324, "Death and Dying." The full text and Francis Browne's English translation is at BCW,

The anonymous melody (Zahn 8326) was first found in the Orgeltabulatur-Buch, Straßburg (1577). The source of the melody, is found in Thomas Braatz (December 11, 2002) BWV 19 Commentary: The "music/melody evolved as follows: in its 1st incarnation the melody by Matthias Gastritz appeared in "Kurtze vnnd sonderliche Newe Symbola etlicher Fürsten," Amberg, 1571; it was later modified by Bernhard Schmid in "Zwey Bücher einer Neuen Künstlichen Tabulatur auf Orgel und Instrument," Straßburg, 1577 - [this is the melody that remained associated with the chorale text, "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr," a chorale that still appears in German Lutheran hymnals up to the present day"; "Lord, Thee I love with all my heart," Lutheran Book of Worship, No 325, "Christian Hope."

"Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr" appears in three Picander texts for Bach cantatas, two for the Feast of St. Michael (SEE BELOW), BWV 149/7(S.3) in the Picander 1728 cycle text, P-62, and Cantata BWV 19/5 from Picander poetry (tenor aria, trumpet melody only (SEE BELOW), as well as the Pentecost Monday Cantata BWV 174/5 (S.1), Picander cycle text, P-39, and also in the St. John Passion, BWV 245/40 (S.3) plain chorale BWV 340.


The melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul; Zahn 6543, EKG 319) is listed as anonymous c1510), as used by Louis Bourgeois in 1551 in the Geneva Psalter, paraphrasing Psalm 42. In the NLGB it is No. 358, Death and Dying. Bach used the melody (sometimes in triple time, sometimes in common time) in various cantatas: BWV 13/3; BWV 19/7; BWV 25/6, BWV 30/6; BWV 32/6; BWV 39/7; BWV 70/7; BWV 194/6.

Detailed information on "Freu dich sehr" is found in "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works," BCW,, including the melody set to five alternate texts that preceeded Olearius' setting, as well as melody variants with other titles, particularly "Wie nach einer Wasserquelle" ("Alternate, but not clearly related melody: Zahn: 1294") and set to Psalm 42 (Quemadmodem, "As for a water-source" a deer longs for) in the German Psalter of 1573 (unknown text source). "Freu dich sehr" (Zahn 6543) is found as a melody and figured bass setting in "Sebastian Bach's Choral-Buch"(SBCB, c. 1740, on Page 249.

Christoph Bach's Michaelfest Cantata

Sebastian's angelic interest probably had been cultivated at the annual Bach Family gatherings in Eisenach or nearby Arnstadt or Erfurt, where his second cousin, Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703), was the church organist. Johann Christoph's best-known composition is his cantata setting of alobut eh final verse (12) of the St. Michael's Epistle (Rev. 12:7-12), "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" (There was a war in heaven). Sebastian performed this festive, militant, 22-voice motet at least once in Leipzig, preserving the only surviving copy, and he "may have been inspired by it to write his Cantatas No. 19 ("Es erhub sich ein Streit"), and No. 50 ("Nun ist dal Heil")," says Karl Geiringer, "Johann Christoph Bach" in Music of the Bach Family: An Anthology (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1955: 30), the first publication of the full score, originally composed about 1680. Geiringer also suggests that Sebastian "may have learned the rudiments of organ playing from J. Christoph before he left Eisenach at the age of 10" (Ibid.: 29), when his father, Johann Ambrosius, died. In all likelihood, Ambrosius as an Eisenach Stadtpfeifer knew well the trumpet parts in first cousin Christoph's Michael cantata.

Revelation Text

The text of the Christoph Bach cantata is the Epistle, Revelation (Offenbarung) 12:7-12, of the war in heaven (narrative), 7-10a, and the canticle of praise, 10b-12, in the Martin Luther 1545 translation:

7. Und es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel: Michael und seine Engel stritten mit dem Drachen. Und der Drache stritt und seine Engel 8. und siegeten nicht; auch ward ihre St&#1492;tte nicht mehr fim Himmel. 9 Und es ward ausgeworfen der große Drache, die alte Schlange, die da heißt der Teufel und Satanas, der die ganze Welt verführt, und ward geworfen auf die Erde, und seine Engel wurden auch dahin geworfen. 10a Und ich hörte eine große Stimme, die sprach im Himmel:
10b Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft und das Reich unsers Gottes geworden und die Macht seines Christus, weil der Verkläger unserer Brüder verworfen ist, der sie verklagte Tag und Nacht vor Gott. (Offenbarung 11.15) 11 Und sie haben ihn überwunden durch des Lammes Blut und durch das Wort ihres Zeugnisses und haben ihr Leben nicht geliebt bis an den Tod. (Offenbarung 6.9) (Offenbarung 7.14) 12 Darum freuet euch, ihr Himmel und die darin wohnen! Weh denen, die auf Erden wohnen und auf dem Meer! denn der Teufel kommt zu euch hinab und hat einen großen Zorn und weiß, daß er wenig Zeit hat.

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10a And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,
10b. Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (King James Version, 1611):


Scoring: SATBB chorus concertante, SATBB chorus ripieno; 2 violins, 4 violas, 4 trumpets, timpani, continuo (bassoon and organ).

Score: Carus-Verlag ( and Hänssler No. 49.

Part 1
1. Sonata (2 violins, 2 violas, continuo)
2. Solo (2 basses, continuo): 7. es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel . . . (add trumpets and timpani) Und der Drache stritt und seine Engel (6 measure instrumental interlude)
3. Choruses, tutti orchestra: 7. es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel . . . .
Part 2
1. Concertante (SATBB), strings, continuo: 8. auch ward ihre St&#1492;tte nicht mehr funden im Himmel.
2. Solo (2 basses, continuo): 9 Und es ward ausgeworfen der große Drache, die alte Schlange, die da heißt der Teufel und Satanas,
3. Tutti ensemble: der die ganze Welt verführt, und ward geworfen auf die Erde, und seine Engel wurden auch dahin geworfen.
Part 3
1. Sinfonia (tutti ensemble)
2. Solo (B, continuo): 10a Und ich hörte eine große Stimme, die sprach im Himmel:
3. Tutti ensemble: 10b Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft und das Reich unsers Gottes geworden und die Macht seines Christus worden.
4. Concertante (SATBB), strings, continuo: (text altered): "weil der Verkläger unserer Brüder verworfen ist, der sie verklagte Tag und Nacht vor Gott" becomes "weil der verworfen ist, der sie verglaget Tag und Nacht für Spott."
5. Tutti ensemble: Und sie haben ihn überwunden (trumpets tacet, antiphonal choruses), durch des Lammes Blut und durch das Wort ihres Zeugnisses
6. Concertante (SATBB), strings, continuo: und haben ihr Leben nicht geliebt bis an den Tod.
7. Tutti ensemble (antiphonal choruses): Rev. 12:12 Darum freuet euch, ihr Himmel und die darin wohnen (omit remainder)

References: Altbachisches Archiv (ABA), (Max Schneider ed.; Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1935, 1966);
Recordings: 1. Cantus Cölln, 2. Rosenmüller Ensemble, 3. Musica Antiqua Köln:
1. Recording information, BCW;
2. Recording information:;
3. Recording: YouTube, (Goebel, Musica Antiqua Köln).


Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-95), the "Bükeburg Bach," a prolific composer in the gallant style, also set the Revelation text (12:7-12) for both the battle and the song of salvation, unlike his father, Sebastian, who used only the dictum (Rev. 12:7), "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (And there was war in heaven), in Cantata BWV 19, setting Picander's paraphrased description of the battle. Friedrich's work, "Michaels Sieg: Der Streit des Guten und Bösen in der Welt" (Michael's victory: the struggle between good and evil in the world), SW XIV/5, uses a text of the Bükeburg (later Weimar) Court poet Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Herder's text includes original poetry as well as the biblical verses alternating with the Lutheran call-to-battle hymn, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A mighty fortress is our God), in a rondo-like construction in three parts involving the battle plan, battle, and victory. This information is found in Karl Geiringer's "The Bach Family: Seven Generations of Creative Genius" (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954, 401). The opening battle is a chorus, "Wie wird uns werden?" (What will become of us?). The following victory song is set in the three remaining movements, an accompagnato recitative and coloratura aria in the Italian style and the closing chorus, "Nun ist da Heil." The work was presented in Hamburg in 1771, probably on St. Michael's Day.

Friedrich and his older brother, Carl Philipp Emmanuel (1714-88], collaborated in 1785 in Hamburg on another Michael's Day "Michaelis-Cantata," SW XIV/6, a pasticcio, also involving a probable Herder text, with father Sebastian's closing five-part chorus, <Sicut locust est> fugue, from the <Magnificat>, BWV 243, in a German contrafaction. Emmanuel contributed the basso continuo accompaniment and the first 15-measures of his German <Sanctus> setting, "Heilig" (Holy), Wq. 218 (H 827), introducing the fugue. Friedrich contributed three numbers from "Michaels Sieg" and three newly composed movements, ending with the chorus "Heilig" and the<Sicut locust est> fugue.

Between these two performances, Emmanuel spoke of his father's performance of Christoph Bach's cantata. In a letter dated Sept. 20, 1775, to Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Bach's first biographer (1802), Emmanuel says:
"This composition in 22 parts is a masterpiece. My blessed father performed it once in a church in Leipzig and everybody was surprised by the effect it made. I have not enough singers here [in Hamburg], or else I would produce it sometime" (quoted in Geiringer, Ibid.: 57).

In Emmanuel's estate catalog of 1790 were found listings (Page 82) of the parts set of Friedrich's "Michaels Sieg" cantata, the parts set of the pasticio "Michaelis-Cantata" with Emmanuel's "Heilig," and the listing of the Altbachisches Archiv collection parts sets beginning (Page 84) with the 22-part Christoph Bach "Es erhub sich ein Streit." Also found in Emmanuel's estate catalog as well was Emmanuel's own copy of the score and parts set of Christoph Bach's "Es erhub sich ein Streit," "in the hand of his [Emmanuel's] principal Berlin copyist, doubtless for a performance there, though the occasion is unknown," says Daniel Melamed, <J. S. Bach and the German motet> (Cambridge University Press, 1995: 166ff).

German Baroque Concerto (Motet) Settings

Other composers who set the Revelation dictum include:

1. Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel," SWV Anh. 11 (doubtful), vocal concerto. Instrumentation: Coro I (SATB), Coro II (SATB), Coro (T, 3 cornetts), Coro IV (T, 3 bassoons, trumpet), Basso continuo (organ). Publication, Heinrich Schütz: Sämtliche Werke, Band 18; Le: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1927; Plate H.S. XVIII; editor, Heinrich Spitta (1902-1972).
Score (Carus-Verlag):
Free Public Domain Sheet Music:,_SWV_Anh.11_(Schütz,_Heinrich). Recording:ütz-Polychoral-Concertos-Heinrich-Schutz/dp/B0000044M4;ütz,_Heinrich.
Recordings: and

2. Tobias Zeutschner (1621-75), "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit Im Himmel" motet (SSATB). Instruments: Violin I, Violin II, Viola vel Trombone 1, Viola sive Trombone 2, Viola sive Trombone 3, Basso Continuo. Free choral sheet music:

3. Matthias Weckmann (1621-1674), "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" vocal concerto, Recording:
Free sheet music:,_Matthias)

4. Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629): Vespers for St. Michael's Day; 8. Lectio: Und Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit; Recording:

5. Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), Vespers for St. Michael's Day

6. Andreas Hammerschmidt (1611-1675) (Johann Rosenmuller Ensemble). Christoph Bach's "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" has a certain resemblance to a cantata by Andreas Hammerschmidt," says Karl Geiringer (Ibid.).

The Feast of Michael and All-Angels became the Lutheran Reformation core expression of religious freedom
as found in the Revelation motets and poetic chorales. Poetically from Renaissance theologian Philipp Melanchthon in 1539 to Enlightened poet Johann Gottfried Herder in 1770, musically from Heinrich Schütz and the Praetorius brothers on the cusp of the Baroque era to Sebastian Bach and his sons Johann Christoph and Emmanuel at the transition to the Enlightenment, the meanings of the angelic heavenly victory of the Blood of the Lamb and humanity were established and celebrated.

Next week's BCW Discussion is Cantata 149, "Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" (Songs are sung with joy of victory), BWV 149 with reflections on the influences of biennial jubilee Reformation festivals as well as John Milton's treatment of the angelic battle and consequences in the heroic-epic "Paradise Lost" (1657) with its elements of the contemporary Italian musical oratorio from and content

William Hoffman wrote (February 19, 2013):
Cantata 19: Intro., Chorales (Correction)

says Daniel Melamed, <J. S. Bach and the German motet> (Cambridge University Press, 1995: 166ff).

German Baroque Concerto (Motet) Settings


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 19: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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