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Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works
Missa Brevis in A major BWV 234

Discussions in the Week of April 25, 2004

John Pike wrote (April 28, 2004):
Another of my favourite Lutheran masses. I particularly enjoy the Quoniam tu solus sanctus and Cum Sancto Spiritu. Again, Rilling and the Purcell Quartet both give splendid accounts of the work.

In case of any doubt, I do not consider myself in a position to formally review a recording. I am expressing my own views only.

 

Discussions in the Week of October 9, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 10, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 234 -- Missa Brevis, A Major

Weekly reminder

For the week of Oct. 9, we have a brief interruption in the discussion of the cantatas of the Trinity season, which will resume next week. The BCW link for the current week is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 10, 2011):
BWV 234 -- Bach's Five Masses

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 234 -- Missa Brevis, A Major >
I have always been a keen devotee of Bach's Latin Masses as the crown of his vocal corpus.

At the risk of redundancy, I'll repost what I've said on other occasions:

* BACH'S FIVE LATIN MASSES

1) What genre does this mass belong to?

This mass is always called a "missa brevis", a "Lutheran mass" or even worse a "shorter mass." It is none of these: Bach called it a "missa." It is a representative work of what could be called the "collective" mass as opposed to the "cyclical" mass. Unlike the cyclical mass which had Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus & Benedictus and Agnus, Bach's "missa" contained Kyrie and Gloria and the other movements were drawn from other settings.

This collective mass (aka "pastiche" mass -- a term as inappropriate as "parody" cantata) can be seen as a strong parallel tradition as early as the 16th century, especially in the Venice-Munich-Vienna axis. At the turn of the 17th century, Gabrieli wrote a Kyrie-Gloria pair which is not part of a cyclical mass. The tradition of stand-alone Glorias that could be combined with other movements was especially strong in Venice: Monteverdi's "Gloria a 6" and Vivaldi's ubiquitous "Gloria" are spectacular examples.

The tradition was alive and well as late as Mozart. The Great Mass in C Minor is always described as "unfinished", yet Mozart treated it as a "collective" mass at its premiere in 1783, although we don't know which other mass sections he used. Two important points here:

a) Mozart went on to write other mass settings in the decade afterwards. He may well have considered the C Minor finished as a collective mass.

b) The Kyrie and Gloria are complete and it was to these sections as a unit that Mozart turned when he reused the music for an oratorio.

In his book on the Mass in B Minor, Stauffer demonstrates that the collective mass was an especially strong tradition at the Catholic Chapel Royal in Dresden and that Kyrie-Gloria pairings were described as "missae." When Bach referred to a "missa", both Catholic and Lutheran musicians would know what he was talking about.

The Lutheran Sunday service was always a collective mass which at its base was the Kyrie & Gloria and the Sanctus (all of Bach's Sanctus settings were independent movements). The Benedictus was omitted but the Credo could also be sung in Latin to Gregorian chant (in addition as a chorale "Wir Glauben'). The stand-alone "Credo" of the "Mass in B Minor" demonstrates that concerted Latin settings were occasionally used. The Agnus Dei could be sung in a Latin setting but more often than not the chorale setting was used.

There is nothing abbreviated or miniature about the four Missae They have a scale commensurate with the Mass in B Minor.

2) Why did Bach write these masses?

In his last decade, Bach suddenly turned to the composition and performance of concerted mass to complement the older motet-style contrapuntal settings which can be found in his standard Vopelius collection. The obvious answer is that Bach wanted to introduce more concerted, cantata-style settings of the mass to keep Leipzig au courant with modern church music. There isn't much support for the Sporck commission thesis anymore.

That he left this genre to the last decade of his life has left some to suggest that Bach may have been angling for more than an honorary appointment at the Dresden court: he may have considered applying to be the head of the Catholic chapel. The missae would be valuable works to have in hand. Bach had strong family and musical connections in Dresden. Stauffer comes close to suggesting a future Dresden career.

3) Why didn't Bach write original music for these Latin masses?

Bach was an accomplished setter of original music for Latin words. The Sanctus settings and above all the Magnificat demonstrate an extraordinary literary and musical affinity to the Latin texts. And yet Bach chose the infinitely more difficult task of adapting existing cantatas with German texts to the Latin texts. I would suggest that the four "missae" were in fact dry runs for the Mass in B Minor. Having chosen this tortuous (and unnecessary?) compositional path, Bach needed to experiment with the process of transforming German texts into Latin.


* BACH'S PARODY TECHNIQUE FROM GERMAN TO LATIN IN THE MISSA In A MAJOR:

Bach adapts the chorus of BWV 67 as the Gloria in Excelsis for the Mass in A Major (and produces a movement probably without precedent in the history of the mass. Where many composers used the opening Gloria in Excelsis as a ritornello which returns to interrupt the movement (Beethoven¹s Missa Solemnis is a late example), Bach uses the recurring Adagio to interrupt the rejoicing of the Gloria. A comparison reveals Bach¹s brilliant rhetorical device of juxtaposing the extrovert Allegro/Vivace section (A) with the reflective Adagio (B):

CANTATA & MASS

A1 Introduction - Gloria in excelsis
B1 Friede - Et in terra (alto)

A2 Wohl Uns - Laudamus te
B2 Friede - Adoramus te (bass)

A3 Jesus - Glorificamus te
B3 Friede - Adoramus te (tenor)

A4 O Herr - Glorificamus te
B4 Friede - Gratias agimus (SATB solo?)

Bach¹s manipulation of the mass text is astonishing: he links the peaceful worshipful Et in terra, Adoramus and Gratias with Friede sei, and the joyful Gloria, Laudamus and Glorificamus to the cantata¹s Allegro section. I can¹t think of another composer who looked at the mass text and thought of this musical and thematic dichotomy (is there anything similar in the Dresden repertoire?).

The finishing touches are exquisite: the adagio ³peace² theme passes successively through the alto, bass and tenor voices, concluding with all four ³soloists.² This movement shows the mature Bach at his finest and is merits comparison with anything in the Mass in B Minor. That the four masses are ignored by scholars and performers alike as poor cousins is a scandal.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 10, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I have always been a keen devotee of Bach's Latin Masses as the crown of his vocal corpus. >
Thanks, Doug. I was hoping you would reitereate this point. You are not alone.

Warren Prestidge wrote (October 10, 2011):
I am excited to see the Missa Brevis in A come up for discussion. I have enjoyed it for years through the recording by Martin Flamig. I find the Qui Tollis aria to be as good as anything Bach or anyone else ever wrote, and the Cum Sancto Spiritu is marvellous. However the opening Kyrie doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The Christe Eleison isimpressive but I find both Kyries very undsatisfactory. I even wonder if Bach is adapting music by someone else in the opening piece. I would be very glad to be set right or further enlightened about these perplexing opening sections.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 10, 2011):
Warren Prestidge wrote:
< I find both Kyries very undsatisfactory. I even wonder if Bach is adapting music by someone else in the opening piece. >
Almost all of the movements of the four Missae (and the Mass in B Minor as well) are based on pre-existing movements, so the Kyrie of the A Major Mass may be based on mofrom lost cantatas.

The opening Kyrie is quite extraordinary for its proto-galant style: counterpoint is all but supressed in favour of block chords in the chorus. I would think that it was probably originally an aria whose solo line was harmonized when transformed for the mass.

The Christe looks like an accompanied recitative with sustained strings. The fugal theme has a rhythmic freedom which would make a fascinating study of polyphonic performance rubato.

The final Kyrie has a galant feel as well, as the fugue is accompanied by light staccato string chords. Both the Christe and this Kyrie follow the traditional counterpoint for this part of the mass, but the setting is very "modern" in style.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 11, 2011):
[To Warren Prestidge] I've always found this piece rather puzzling although I have to confess i have not done a bar by bar analysis of it as I have done with the cantatas. My question (to myself!) is--can one really believe that the same man composed the Kyrie and the Domine Deus? The former is very much rococo in 'feel' and in many identifiable musical characteristics e.g. even phrase lengths, inbuilt dynamics and echo effects, harmonic language, orchestration etc. The aria is in F# minor a key Bach used a lot for arias and its scale and feel are much more 'Bachian--although even here I feel that sometimes the descending scale passages are a bit overdone and predictable in a way that you don't usually find in Bach. There is an aria from one of the cantatas which begins with the same descending idea and in the same key.

There are a number of movements attributed to Bach which bear the fingerprints of later composers, most probably one of his sons. The last movement of the keyboard concerto in A (possibly originally a concerto for oboe d'amore) falls into this category. The opening theme, with its concentration upon melody above an uninteresting bass line and the rhythmic 'fills' at the end of the rather tedious four bar phrases is pure rococo . But later in the movement are some muscular passages that are very 'Bachian'.

I guess with works like these you pays your money and takes your chance.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 11, 2011):
<>
In BWV 234, I love the Quoniam, a treat for an alto singer!

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 11, 2011):
<>

Evan Cortens wrote (October 12, 2011):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] <>.
Fascinating discussion!

William Hoffman wrote (October 13, 2011):
Intro. to BWV 234: 'Missa' Traditions & Directions

Composed in the second half of the 1730s when Bach was perfecting various compositional techniques and compiling his "well-ordered church music to the glory of God," the collection of four <Missae Kyrie-Gloria>, BWV 233-36, reveal various traditions and directions:
*It fosters the German tradition of liturgical settings of the first two sections of the five-part Mass Ordinary, including tropes of Luther's setting of the chorale-based vernacular <Deutsche Messe> (German Mass).
*It uses the Renaissance tradition of contrafaction or new text underlay, usually involving Latin and the vernacular, as well as the Baroque (formerly common-practice period) pursuit of the collective dissemination of works.
*It exhibits a variety of German-based stylistic elements and it represents an engaging alternative to Luther's German Mass.
*In addition, the <Missa Kyrie-Gloria> in A Major, BWV 234> is the most representative and source-documented of the quartet of <Missa Kyrie-Gloria> settings, and was first performed in 1738 with two reperformances: 2nd performance: 1743-1746 - Leipzig; 3rd performance: 1748-1749 - Leipzig.

Some 20 recordings of the Bach <Missae Kyrie-Gloria>, BWV 233-236, in the Bach Cantata Website (BCW) in the past decade, of a total of 49, as well as extensive BCW discussion, suggest that this music is finally being recognized as important part of Bach's oeuvre. I would further suggest that it is an important part of Bach's development of "Latin Church Music," that is a cornerstone of Bach's calling of "well-regulated church music to the glory of God."


Bach Compositions, 1735-40

This music was composed at a crucial time, beginning in the mid 1730s, when Bach had virtually completed original vocal composition and turned his creative focus to transforming and consolidating his creations as part of his Christological Cycle of Church Music. At the beginning of 1735, Bach began systematically developing and perfecting his previous vocal works into an unparalleled collection of church year "pieces" involving major compositional categories, primarily using the long-established technique of contrafaction or parody, known as new-text underlay with accompanying alterations in the music to accommodate its new context.

In the previous 12 years as Leipzig cantor and director of music, Bach had created and performed three church-year cantata cycles of almost 60 pieces each, the first Latin Church Music sections of the Mass (the Sanctus), and extended oratorios for the major <de tempore> events involving Jesus Christ. These works began with the St. John Oratorio Passion, BWV 245 on the suffering and death of Christ, as well as his resurrection in the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 (his first substantial parody) and the large-scale drama of the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244. Then Bach presented all four Gospel Passion accounts between 1728 and 1732, including his concise parody chorale St. Mark Passion, BWV 247 in 1731. Bach followed in 1733 with a large-scale Kyrie-Gloria petition to the Saxon Court for the title Court Composer, a work involving contrafaction of several sections of the Gloria from his cantata arias and choruses.

In 1735, Bach presented major oratorios focusing on the feasts of Jesus Christ: Christmas birth, BWV 248; Easter, BWV 249; Ascension, BWV 11; and possibly a now-lost work on the Pentecost descent of the Holy Spirit. Having composed many works for the <de tempore> time focusing on Jesus Christ, Bach turned his creativity to the <omnes tempore> half of the church year of Christian teachings and themes. From 1735 to 1740, three categories of compositions merited his involvement: vocal sacred songs (hymns), related instrumental organ chorale preludes on sacred melodies, and Latin Church Music.

The Schemelli Songbook published in Leipzig in 1735 contains 68 popular sacred songs on various <omnes tempore> devotional themes that Bach set with figured bass, BWV 439-507. Bach suggested in the introduction that he had another volume of sacred songs available (Were these his 180 free-standing chorales later published in a four-volume chorale collection by son Emmanuel (Breitfkopf, 1784-87), BWV 250-438?). This collection included the five extended four-part chorale settings of Luther's <Deutsche Messe> (vernacular German Mass": "Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit" (Mercy, God Father in eternity) in e-G, BWV 371; Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Her (Alone God in the highest be glory) in G Major, BWV 260); "Wir Glauben all an einem Gott" (We all believe in one God) in D Major, BWV 437; "Sanctus" (Holy) in F Major, BWV 325; and "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (O Lamb of God unstained) also in F Major, BWV 401.

Bach's earliest well-ordered church music, composed in the first decade of the 18th century, -- the organ chorale preludes in the Neumeister (31), Miscellaneous & Kirnberger (76) and Orgelbüchlein (45) collections -- primarily focused on the <de tempore> pieces involving Jesus Christ. Not long after the publication of the <Clavier-Übung II> (Keyboard Studies in 1735), Bach began composing the organ chorale collection, sometimes called "The German Organ Mass and Catechism Chorales," of 21 Lutheran chorale preludes found in the <omnes tempore> section of the hymnbooks and published in 1739 as <Clavier-Übung III>, BWV 669-689, with the "St. Anne Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major," BWV 552.
The Catechism section involves chorales on the Ten Commandments, Confession, Penitence, and Justification. In 1740, Bach began assembling his so-called "Great 18 Leipzig Organ Chorales," BWV 651-668, composed in Weimar (1708-16), with twelve devoted to the "omnes tempore> time. Both collections, particularly the Organ Mass, were written in both old and new styles of music, <stile antico> amd <stile moderno>.

After composing the five German Mass chorales (BWV 371, 260, 437, 325, 401), as well as other choral settings of this liturgy, Bach again took up Latin Church Music, primarily settings of the Mass Ordinary sections of the initial <Kyrie> and <Gloria>. The <Missa Kyrie-Gloria> of 1733 was composed on a grand scale for the Saxon Court and not intended for the regular service, although it may have been performed in 1733 in Leipzig and/or Dresden for special memorial, thanksgiving or services of allegiance.

While scant source-critical evidence exists that Bach composed his four <Missae Kyrie Gloria>, circumstantial and collateral evidence abounds and this history is described in detail in BCW: Systematic Discussion, BWV 233-236: Thomas Braatz wrote (May 7, 2004): "Lutheran Masses BWV 233-236: The NBA KB II/2 (Lutheran Masses - mainly BWV 233-236) has on pp. 14 ff. the following introduction to the Lutheran Masses in general: [I am providing a fairly close translation of this section]"
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV233-236.htm


Genesis of the Kyrie-Gloria

Here are my notes drawn from the most recent <Mass in B Minor>, BWV 232, General Discussions Part 17, October 14, 2009: BCW, http://bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV232-Gen17.htm

1. Kyrie, BWV 233a, assumed to have been composed in Mühlhausen or Weimar, 1707-1718, interpolates the German chorale "Christe du Lamm Gottes" (Christ, thou Lamb of God) in motet style with the traditional four voices singing the "Kyrie" in Latin. In the extant version, BWV 233/1, the setting is for four voices with continuo while horns and oboes play the hymn melody, presumed to have been sung by the soprano in German in the "original" bi-lingual trope or interpolation setting.

2. Missa "Kyrie" and "Gloria," BWV 232I and II, composed in 1733. The original score "was reworked by Bach during the adaptation of the Missa for the Mass in B Minor, in 1748-49," says the new Baerenreiter edition from the NBA I/2a, "Early Versions of the B Minor Mass" (2006).

3. Between 1735 and 1738, Bach parodied movements from at least 10 church-year cantatas to create four Missae, BWV 233-236, "using the same basic plan as the earlier Missa but on a reduced scale," says Joshua Rifkin, Notes to BWV 233-236 Rilling Nonesuch recording.


Bach `Missa' Motive, Method, Opportunity

In transforming the various church cantata movements into the four six-movement <Missae: Kyrie-Gloria>, three factors seems to have driven Bach: motive, method and opportunity. Bach's motive(s) could have been the desire to fill out a well-regulated church music, to create acceptable and appropriate liturgical music in Latin, and to use <Gloria text> emphasizing the <omnes tempore> Trinity or Triune God of the Christian faith. Bach's method was contrafaction of the highest order, not simply new text underlay, with extensive changes in the musical passages. Even so, there is still legitimate criticism regarding both "faulty text declamation adaptation" and "incongruous stylistic usages." Bach's opportunity came from a wealth of existing cantata choruses and arias, as shown previously in the expansive <Missae: Kyrie-Gloria> of 1733, adapting music of similar "affection" or feeling, often with comparable words. As with the earlier model or template, Bach used choruses for the Kyrie section and the Gloria section opening and closing <Cum sancto spiritu>. The middle portion of the Gloria involves three aria movements.

As to the actual utilization of this music appropriate for the Leipzig Lutheran Service, especially on feast days, the <Missa Kyrie-Gloria in A Major>, BWV 234, was performed three times by Bach, based on an original set of parts, and possible all four during the 50 years following his death in 1750, when various copies were made. "This collection was copied by Bach's student and later son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnickol" (Braatz, Ibid.). Bach's second son, Emmanuel, listed all four scores bound together ("Vier Messen in Partitur" "eingebunden") in his Estate Catalog of 1790 (P. 70), with separate performing score copies of BWV 233 and 235 from his Hamburg copyist "H. Michel." The Fall 1761 Bretifkopf publisher's catalog showed listings of the original scores of BWV 234 and 236, available for copying from the manuscripts. At that time, Christian Friedrich Penzel, former Bach student and St. Thomas Choir Perfect, made a copy of the score of BWV 236, dated Oct. 29, 1761, possibly for performance at a service for his probe test to succeed (unsuccessfully) his father as sexton at Oelsnitz.


`Missa' and `Missa Brevis' Compositions

Douglas Cowling's recent Discussion information on the <Missa Kyrie-Gloria in A Major>, BWV 234, explains and clarifies the <Missa> forms and singles out the Gloria of BWV 234 (Bach's Five Masses, BCW, 10/11/11, http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/35538 ). The <Missa Brevis> (Short Mass) term was (mis)used for 17th and 18th century settings for the first two sections (Kyrie and Gloria) of the Mass Ordinary.

Bach performed with minor changes (in Leipzig) three <Missa Brevis> from the Breitkopf archives that originally were attributed to him, then cousin Johann Ludwig and now to Bach colleagues and/or family members. They are: Johann Ludwig Bach, Missa Brevis in C Major, BWV Anh. 25 (1740-42); Francesco Durante (1684-1755) or Johann Ludwig Bach <Missa Brevis in C Minor>, BWV Anh. 26 (late 1720s) [http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWVAnh25.htm; and Johann Nikolaus Bach (1669-1753) or Johann Ludwig Bach "Missa Brevis in E Minor: "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her," BWV Anh. 166 (1727/29), Hänssler 30.701) http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWVAnh166.htm. There also is a J.F. Fasch (1688-1758) "Missa Brevis in D" (BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Fasch-Vocal.htm).

The "Missa Brevis in E Minor," BWV Anh. 166, includes the chorale "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her," "sung by the second sopranos above a four-part chorale fugue with the Latin text, "Gloria in excelsis Deo," notes Robin A. Leaver in the "Missa" article in the <OCC Composer Companions JSB> (OUP, 1999: 299). The work with the troped chorale originally was composed in 1716, says Klaus Hofmann in his "Preface" to the Hänssler edition 30.701 (1976). Bach in Mühlhausen or Weimar, 1707-1718, interpolated the German chorale "Christe du Lamm Gottes" into the "Kyrie in F Major, BWV 233a," as cited above.

In addition, "amongst `the most famous composers' in this genre" (<"Missa Brevis">), alongside Sebastian Bach, are the Vienna/Dresden Catholic Court composers whom Bach held in high regard: Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) and his students, Antonio Caldara (1670-1736) and Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). This is according to Johann Adam Hiller (1728-1804), the third Thomas Cantor (1797-1804) after Bach, then Johann Gottlob Harrer (1750-55) and Johann Friedrich Doles (1756-1797), in his <Weekly Reports on Music> (1768), cited in liner notes, "Bach's Lutheran Masses," by Emil Platen in the Linde Consort 2-LP Recording, EMI 270027 (1984).


A-Major Mass, BWV 234

The best accessible source for <Missa Kyrie-Gloria in A Major>, BWV 234, is the Breitkopf & Härtel "Facsimile of the Autograph Score, JSB Mass A Major BWV 234 (Wiesbaden 1985) with an Introduction containing two articles: "The Manuscript," by Oswald Bill (pp. 7-14) and "The Work," by Klaus Häfner (pp. 15-19). Bill's article suggests of the source: "Perhaps it had belonged to the Estif Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, from whom Breitkopf apparently acquired a part of his Bach collection."

The manuscript is described in detail in the edition Thomas Braatz cites above, "Lutheran Masses BWV 233-236: The NBA KB II/2 (Lutheran Masses - mainly BWV 233-236), by Emil Platen and Mariane Helms in 1985." Bill describes the manuscript score in Bach's hand as a "unique situation" "between a draft and a fair copy," showing Bach making corrections while "partly copying the work and partly revising it." "It almost seems as if the manuscript was in a constant process of revision" with most of the changes in the vocal parts as new Latin text underlay adaptations from the original cantata music in German.

(It should be noted that Bach parodied two types of compositions: occasional secular works such as Köthen serenades and Leipzig <drammi per musica>, composed originally for a particular event, and given new life in sacred church year cantatas (using the same German language) for Easter and Pentecost Feast Days as well as Feast Day Oratorios, and the use of sacred cantatas as contrafactions for special Liturgical Latin Mass music, thereby providing a new, repetitive venue for the utilization of the music. Most of Bach's secular to sacred adaptations were done between 1723 and 1735. All of the sacred pieces were given Latin texts in new works beginning in 1733 and continuing until just before Bach's death in 1750. Thus, Bach had different purposes for the two types of alterations: extended life and new usage, both in the name of expanding the repertory of well-regulated church music.)

Häfner's article, "The Work," in the Breitkopf 1985 edition of <Missa> BWV 234 lays out the evidence for both the purpose and uses of the music as well as the conjecture regarding the three movements where no cantata source has been found of the 24 total movements in the four short >Missae>. He suggests that Bach began their adaptation following his designation on Nov. 19, 1736, as "Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Court Composer," for the court Catholic or older Lutheran service and later in for service in Leipzig, with the A-Major Mass original c.1738 score designation with a continuo part for "Violoncell piccolo" and the later parts set dating to Bach's last years performing the work for the third time in Leipzig.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 13, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< It uses the Renaissance tradition of contrafaction or new text underlay, usually involving Latin and the vernacular, as well as the Baroque (formerly common-practice period) pursuit of the collective dissemination of works. >
I think this is an extremely important point. I have always wondered why Bach chose to adapt German cantatas for his Latin masses when he could write fresh settings as he did in the Magnificat. The contrafactum (aka "parody") mass was the standard compositional method in the Renaissance: even Palestrina's "Missa Papae Marcelli" is now presumed to use the "L'Homme Armé" theme as its basis. When Bach came to write his Latin mass, it may have been an unspoken tradition that a Latin mass should be an adaptation. Interestingly, Bach seems to have resisted the common Renaissance custom parodying secular works.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 13, 2011):
Bach's "German Mass"

William Hoffman wrote:
< The Schemelli Songbook published in Leipzig in 1735 ... included the five extended four-part chorale settings of Luther's <Deutsche Messe> (vernacular German Mass": "Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit" (Mercy, God Father in eternity) in e-G, BWV 371; Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Her (Alone God in the highest be glory) in G Major, BWV 260); "Wir Glauben all an einem Gott" (We all believe in one God) in D Major, BWV 437; "Sanctus" (Holy) in F Major, BWV 325; and "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (O Lamb of God unstained) also in F Major, BWV 401. >
Is there any scholarly speculation that these might be settings used at weekday masses or by Choir II on Sundays and feast days? It would be interesting if they were shown to be Bach's "German Mass."

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 13, 2011):
Warren Prestidge wrote:
< I am excited to see the Missa Brevis in A come up for discussion.
[...]
However the opening Kyrie doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The Christe Eleison is impressive but I find both Kyries very unsatisfactory. I even wonder if Bach is adapting music by someone else in the opening piece. I would be very glad to be set right or further enlightened about these perplexing opening sections. >
Thanks for the personal responses, which inspired me to listen (and read) a bit more than I might otherwise have done. I think replies from BCML correspondents are addressing the point of sources for the music. There is also much of interest in the booklet notes to the Folan/Publick Musick set of the Missae, BWV 233-236, notes by Peter Watchorn, with a reprint of an earlier essay by Alfred Mann, specific to BWV 234. These notes are consistent, in particular, with ideas posted by Doug Cowling:

(1) The Missae BWV 233-236 in fact originally formed a set of five works which included the Kyrie and Gloria from BWV 232, much later expanded to become the B minor Mass.

(2) BWV 234 has a unique relation to the origin of BWV 232, in terms of structure and reworking of sources. The Christe and second Kyrie of BWV 234 are likely adaptations of recitative originals. Although this does not exactly correspond to the *unsatisfactory* sound in a choral setting noted by Warren, perhaps this is moving toward an explanation?

Warren Prestidge wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski & Julian Mincham] Thanks, Julian and Ed, for your comments on the Missa Brevis in A.

The reference to "rococo" is helpful. Perhaps in the first Kyrie Bach is experimenting with "modern" rococo forms?

The insight that the Christe and second Kyrie of the Missa Brevis in A derive from recitative makes a lot of sense to me. It would account for the strangely "angular" quality of the subject in the second Kyrie and the fact that, in a sense, the Christe "goes" nowhere, even though it is a moving piece.

 

Discussions in the Week of June 5, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote wrote (June 13, 2016):
Lutheran "Short Mass" Missa in A Major, BWV 234: Intro.

While the Missa No. 2 in A Major, BWV 234 lacks the source of two movements, “Kyrie” chorus and “Domine Deus” bass aria, it has music unlike the other three Misae Breves, BWV 233, 235-56, and relies on four different source sacred cantatas for individual movement adaptations. Unlike the original model, the Dresden Missa: Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 232a(I) of 1733, Missa in A opening “Kyrie” and “Gloria” lack old, extended motet and fugal styles, instead having tempo shifts with solo passages and extensive homophonic passages. It is suggested that Bach designed this adaptation for the Leipzig Christmas festival.

Like its predecessor, Missa in F Major, BWV 233, it has three solo internal arias from different sources: bass “Domine Deus, rex coelestis” (Lord God, heavenly King), soprano “Qui tollis peccata mundi” (who takes away the sins of the world,” and alto “Quoniam tu solus sanctus” (Thou alone are the holy one). The closing fugal chorus “Cum Sancto Spiritu” (With the Holy Spirit), like the “Gloria” chorus, is a complex contrafacation. Lasting more than half an hour, the Missa in A instrumental scoring is for pairs of flutes, strings and continuo.1

The initial, tripartite “Kyrie” for tutti ensemble lasts more than six minutes, running 148 measures. The first ‘Kyrie” (source unknown, 72 mm) has a pastoral character with its two flutes in ¾ time with long ritornelli as well as short instrumental responses, the “Christe” in 4/4 “Lento” (17 mm) chromatic circular canon with solos seems original; the second “Kyrie” in 3/8 (59 mm) has a fugal writing, closing with a brief Adagio on the “eleison” (have mercy) litany.

"Gloria in excelsis Deo" Chorus

Likewise, the “Gloria” chorus” lasting more than five minutes (111 measures) shifts between “Vivace” 4/4 and “Adagio” ¾, although the original model survives and Bach has been able to utilize music that has similar affect as well as affirmative text. It’s a complex adaptation of the SATB aria, “Friede sei mit euch,” the Christian greeting, “Peace be with you,” with the slow bass vox Christi alternating with the faster SAT passages, all accompanied by flute, two oboes d’amore, strings and continuo in the original. It is derived from Mvt. No. 6 in Cantata BWV 67, “Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ” (Keep in memory Jesus Christ, 2 Timothy 2:8), for the “Low” 1st Sunday after the Easter resurrection 1724 to a text possibly by Christian Weise Sr. The Vivace 4/4 fast sections begin with the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the highest) in the opening BWV 67/5 sinfonia set to a four-part homophonic overlay (nine measures); the alternating ¾ slow bass solo, marked “Ruhig” (restful), “Friede sei mit euch,” with a changed vocal line for alto solo “et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis” (and on earth peace good-will towards men).

The remaining, alternating sections of the “Gloria” are: the chorus “laudaumus te, benedicimus te” (we praise thee, we bless thee), adaptation of the SAT solo, “Wohl uns! Jesus hilft uns kämpfen / Und die Wut der Feinde dämpfen” (How fortunate we are! Jesus helps us to fight / and to subdue the rage of the enemy); bass solo “adoramus te” (we adore thee) to “Friede sei mit euch”; chorus “glorificamus te” (we glorify thee) to SAT solo, “Jesus holet uns zum Frieden / Und erquicket in uns Müden / Geist und Leib zugleich”

(Jesus calls us to peace / and hand in our weariness revives / spirit and body together); tenor solo text repeat “adormaus te”; chorus text repeat, “glorificamus te” (we glorify thee) to SAT solo, “O Herr, hilf und lass gelingen, / Durch den Tod hindurchzudringen / In dein Ehrenreich!” (Oh Lord, help us and let us succeed in pressing on through death / into your glorious kingdom”); and the closing “Gratias agimus tibi / propter magnum gloriam tuam” (we give thee thanks / for thy great glory) adapted from the closing 17-measure Adagio, “Friede sei mit euch” using the accompaniment set with new fugal chorus.

Bass "Domine," Soprano "Qui Tollis" Arias

Bach follows the model of the previous Mass in F, BWV 233, with three internal arias that preserve the original music in contrafaction. The bass trio aria with solo violin (no. 3), “Domine Deus, Rex coelestis / Deus Pater omnipotens” (Lord God, heavenly king, / God the Father almighty), is an Andante in A Major 4/4. It lasts six minutes in two parts with opening, internal, and closing ritornelli, while the original source is unknown and thus may be original, lasting 98 measures. The extended second part with similar style music but more text is “Domine fili unegenite Jesu Christe / Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris” (God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ / Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father).

Also lasting six minutes is the alto ¾ b minor aria (no. 4) for flutes and strings in unison of the tri-partite mercy litany, “Qui tollis pecca mundi” (who takes away the sins of the world) of similar affect. It is a modification of the vocal part and instrumentation (two oboes da caccia) of the soprano free da-capo aria in a minor, “Liebster Gott, erbarme dich” (Dearest God, be merciful), from Cantata BWV 179, “Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei, / und diene Gott nicht mit falschem Herzen!” (See that your fear of God is not hypocrisy / and do not serve god with a false heart!, Ecclesiasticus 1:28), for the 11th Sunday after Trinity 1723, to a possible text of Christian Weise Sr. It is adapted to two flutes with strings in unison playing the original basso continuo almost an octave higher (called bassetto or Bassetchen) and lasts 112 measures. Bach also used the opening chorus of Cantata 179 as the Kyrie and the tenor aria (no. 3) as the “Quoniam” of the Missa No. 4 in G Major, BWV 236.

The new Latin tri-partite text is: A. “Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis” (Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.); B. “Suscipe deprecationem nostram” (receive our prayer); C. “Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis” (Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us). The Cantata 102/5 original text is: A. “Liebster Gott, erbarme dich, / Laß mir Trost und Gnad erscheinen! (Dearest God, be merciful. / Let your comfort and grace appear to me!); B. Meine Sünden kränken mich / Als ein Eiter in Gebeinen” (My sins sicken me / like an abscess in my bones); C. “Hilf mir, Jesu, Gottes Lamm, / Ich versink im tiefen Schlamm!” (Help me, Jesus, lamb of God, / I am sinking in deep mire). Bach also used the opening chorus of Cantata 102 as the “Kyrie” of Missa No. 3 in g minor, BWV 235.

"Quoniam" Alto Aria

For the third consecutive and final aria in the “Gloria” section, “Quoniam tu solus sanctus” (Since you alone are holy), Bach turned to a three-minute long, similar-in-affect 6/8 free da-capo trio alto aria with solo flute or oboe concertante (changed to strings in unison), with usual ritornelli, “Gott ist unsre Sonn und Schild!” (God is our sun and shield!), no. 2 in Cantata BWV 79, “Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild” (God the Lord is sun and shield.” It is a Reformation Festival Cantata for 1725, to a text possibly by Christian Weise Sr., using the form of opening chorus and internal plan chorale found in a series of mostly Easter Season first cycle cantatas of 1724. The remainder of the new Latin text, sung throughout the aria lasting 73 measures, is: “tu solus Dominus, tu solus altissimus /Jesu Christe” (you alone are the Lord, / you alone are most high / Jesus Christ). The rest of German original is, “Darum rühmet dessen Güte / Unser dankbares Gemüte, / Die er für sein Häuflein hegt” (Therefore our grateful spirit /praises the kindness with which he cares for his little flock); B. “Denn er will uns ferner schützen, / Ob die Feinde Pfeile schnitzen / Und ein Lästerhund gleich billt” (For he wants to continue to protect us / although our enemies sharpen their arrows / and a blasphemous dog now barks).

The new Latin version of the “Quoniam “lowers the original obbligato line an octave; otherwise the new version leaves the model fundamentally intact but for some slight structural modifications in the middle [B] section,” says Joshua Rifkin in the liner notes of the original 1976 Helmuth Rilling Nonesuch recording, see BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242-Rec1.htm, scroll down to No. 6. Bach also used the opening chorus of Cantata 79 as the “Gloria” and the duet (no. 5) as the “Domine Deus” in Missa No. 4 in G.

"Cum Sancto Spiritu" Chorus

For the closing chorus “Cum Sancto spiritu in Gloria dei patris, Amen” (With the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father, Amen), Bach used the opening chorus of Cantata 136, “Erforsche mich, Gott und erfahre mein Herz;” (Search me, God, and know my heart, Psalm 133:23), for the 8th Sunday after Trinity 1723. The original text, also possibly by Christian Weise Sr., has no connection with the Doxology that closes the “Gloria.” It appears that the 12/8 pastorale/giga-style G Major chorus extended fugue originated in a lost Cöthen congratulatory cantata. The form of the Cantata 136 chorus “exhibits a certain lack of purposefulness in its development” and is not the original form, says Alfred Dürr in The Cantatas of J. S. Bach.FN The fugue subject in Cantata 136 “occurs considerably more often in the outer than in the inner parts, possibly due to the origin of the movement (it suggests an original in fewer parts), says Dürr.

The Missa in A Major homophonic brief, three-measure Grave 4/4 introduction with the first phrase, “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” was written by Bach for the Missa, followed by the 12/8 fugue with the second phrase, “in Gloria Dei Patris, Amen,” suggesting a French Overture. A brief orchestral interlude of three measures beginning at Measure 422, divides the two fugues, with no extended “Amen.” The fugal music is the same with the Cantata 136 text, continuing, “prümich und erfahre, wie ichs meine!” (test me and know what I think!). The Missa omits the Cantata 136 closing ritornello of four measures.

The Dresden Missa of 1733 closes with an extensive fugal “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” set to full orchestra with trumpets and drums, whose origin is unknown. It has been suggested that, like the opening “Gloria,” it may have had its beginnings in a lost Cöthen concerted work, or it may be loosely based on a later 1720s cantata movement, or could be wholly original. Meanwhile, the Missa in A closing fugal chorus shows that “Bach’s masterly ability to combine music and text should be given its full due,” says Andreas Bomba in his liner notes to the Rilling “Sacred Music in Latin 1,” BWV 233-234.2 “Not a single Measure of this music betrays the parody character of the composition – whose musical quality need not fear comparison with that of the Christmas Oratorio,” says Bomba.

Missa in A: History, Commentary

Missa in A, BWV 234, has quite a history, beginning with repeat performances. Written around 1738, its original score in Bach’s hand shows evidence of reperformances around 1743-46 and 1748-49. As early as 171, Johann Philipp Kirnberger in his treatise “The Art of Strict Musical Composition), cited the “Christe eleison” section of the Missa, as Bomba points out (Ibid.). It was one of Bach’s first vocal works to be printed, the score in 1818 by Simrock in Bonn, from the Georg Pölchau collection, presumably from the Emmanuel Bach estate in the Missae collection in the hand of Bach student Johann Christoph Altnikol, c.1745.

The “Christe” section that Kirnberger cited elicited this reponse from Philipp Spiitta, Bach’s first scholarly biographer: It is “an amalgamation of the freest with the strictest form, achieved with the daring of genius.”3 The music “marks the confluence of the work of the contrapuntalist and that of the drasmatist,” says Alfred Mann in his essay, “Missa Brevis and Historia: Bach’s A Major Mass.”4 Mann suggests that this passage is a Historia on the birth of Jesus.

Mann is particularly impressed with the “Gloria” adaptation that forms the core of the Missa. The “unusually dramatic quality” of the original SATB scena aria includes the bass vox Christi, “Peace be unto you,” “changes the scene, in one of the most compelling lyrical phrases Bach has written, to an expression of complete serenity and assurance.” Mann suggests that the “turbulent tutti episodes suggests the angelic hosts introducing the Great Doxology “Gloria,” followed by the solo voices ABT in lieu of the bass solo as a “veritable adoration scene.” The “Kyrie” and “Gloria” scenes together create a large pastoral scene,” emphasized by the flutes and strings. This work with its repeats “may have been intended for a Christmas performance,” says Mann.

Bach’s A Major Mass Manuscript

The best accessible source for <Missa Kyrie-Gloria in A Major>, BWV 234, is the Breitkopf & Härtel “Facsimile of the Autograph Score, JSB Mass A Major BWV 234 (Wiesbaden 1985) with an Introduction containing two articles: “The Manuscript,” by Oswald Bill (pp. 7-14) and “The Work,” by Klaus Häfner (pp. 15-19). Bill’s article suggests of the source: “Perhaps it had belonged to the Estate of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, from whom Breitkopf apparently acquired a part of his Bach collection.”

The manuscript is described in detail in the edition, “Lutheran Masses BWV 233-236: The NBA KB II/2 (Lutheran Masses – mainly BWV 233-236), by Emil Platen and Mariane Helms in 1985.” Bill describes the manuscript score in Bach’s hand as a “unique situation” “between a draft and a fair copy,” showing Bach making corrections while “partly copying the work and partly revising it.” “It almost seems as if the manuscript was in a constant process of revision” with most of the changes in the vocal parts as new Latin text underlay adaptations from the original cantata music in German.

Häfner’s article, “The Work,” in the Breitkopf 1985 edition of <Missa> BWV 234 lays out the evidence for both the purpose and uses of the music as well as the conjecture regarding the three movements where no cantata source has been found of the 24 total movements in the four short >Missae>. He suggests that Bach began their adaptation following his designation on Nov. 19, 1736, as “Royal Polish and Electoral Saxon Court Composer,” for the court Catholic or older Lutheran service and later for service in Leipzig, with the A-Major Mass original c.1738 score designation with a continuo part for “Violoncell piccolo” and the later parts set dating to Bach’s last years performing the work for the third time in Leipzig.

FOOTNOTES

1 Mass in A, BWV 234, BCW Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242.htm. Score BGA http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV234-BGA.pdf. References: : BGA VIII (Masses, Maurice Hauptmann, 1858), NBA KB II/2 (Masses & Mass Movements, Emil Platten, Mariane Helms, 1982), Bach Compendium BC E 3.
2 Rilling, BCW recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242-Rec1.htm, scroll down to No. 20).
3 Philipp Spitta, Johann Sebastian Bach (London: Novello & Company, 1989 (trans. Clara Bell & J. A. Fuller-Maitland); 3-volume edition (New York: Dover Publications, 1951: III: 33).
4
Mann, in (BACH XVI/1 (January 1985), Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Insititute, Baldwin Wallace College; Berea OH: 9).

 

Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242: Details
Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements | Sanctus BWV 241 | Christe Eleison BWV 242
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 233 | BWV 234 | BWV 235 | BWV 236 | BWV 233-236 | BWV 237-242


Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127



 

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Last update: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 03:40