Friday, January 21, 2011

Monumental Mass from Bach

J.S. Bach
The Mass in B minor (BWV 232) is a musical setting of the complete Latin Mass by Johann Sebastian Bach. The work was one of Bach's last, although much of it was made of music that Bach had composed earlier. Bach assembled the Mass in its present form in 1749, just before his death in 1750.

It was unusual for composers working in the Lutheran tradition to compose a Missa tota (complete mass) and Bach's motivations remain a matter of scholarly debate. The Mass was most probably never performed in totality during Bach's lifetime, and the work largely disappeared in the 18th century. Several performances in the early 19th century, however, sparked a revival both of the piece and the larger rediscovery of Bach's music. Today, it is widely hailed as a monumental work of the late Baroque and is frequently performed.

Bach did not give the work a title; instead, in the score four parts of the Latin Mass are each given their own title page - "Kyrie", "Gloria", "Symbolum Nicaenum" (the profession of faith or Credo), and "Sanctus, Hosanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei" - and simply bundled together. Indeed, the different sections call for different numbers and arrangements of performers, giving rise to the theory that Bach did not ever expect the two-hour-long work to be performed in its entirety. On the other hand, the parts in the manuscript are numbered from 1 to 4, and Bach's usual closing formula (S.D.G = Soli Deo Gloria) is only found at the end of the Dona Nobis Pacem.

The Mass in B minor is widely regarded as one of the supreme achievements of classical music. In the booklet to the recording of "The 'Great Mass' in B minor" by Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent (released from Harmonia Mundi, HML5901614.15, 1999) Alberto Basso summarizes the work as follows:

"The Mass in B minor is the consecration of a whole life: started in 1733 for 'diplomatic' reasons, it was finished in the very last years of Bach's life, when he had already gone blind. This monumental work is a synthesis of every stylistic and technical contribution the Cantor of Leipzig made to music. But it is also the most astounding spiritual encounter between the worlds of Catholic glorification and the Lutheran cult of the cross.".

Source: Wikipedia

City of Dunedin Choir will be performing this monumental mass on 16 April 2011 - mark this date in your diary and keep an eye on our Concerts page for details as these unfold.

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