Although the center piece of the Credo is not a love-duet, something similar is here as well. It is the third movement, Et in unum Dominum (And I believe in the one Lord, Jesus Christ). Again, devotion to Christand in contemporary theology that meant loveis expressed in a style close to a love-duet.
The center-piece, Crucifixus, is followed by the Resurrexit, composed in the style of a concerto grosso. It musically "paints" the resurrection of Christ with ascending motifs. The adoration of the Holy Spirit (Et in Spiritum Sanctum) serves as a point of repose. It is a calm aria, sung by the bass and accompanied by two oboes d'amore, serving as a counterpart to the duet Et in unum Dominum, and balancing the symmetric outline of the whole Creed: Choir-Choir—Duet—Choir-Choir-Choir—Solo—Choir-Choir
While the Sanctus was already composed in 1724, the Osanna, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei were written at the same time as the Credo in the late 1740s. The Sanctus employs a six-part choir, accompanied by trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings, and basso continuo. Thus the movement demands a slightly larger ensemble than the previous pieces, which used only up to five voices. One reason for this discrepancy is of course that Bach used a setting that already existed, but there might be a symbolic reason as well. The beginning of the liturgical Sanctus is taken from the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 6. It is the song of the celestial Seraphim which, according to this text, have six wings. The number of voices reflects this biblical number.
The following Osanna further expands the vocal forces. It is a polychoral concerto for two four-part choirs and instruments. It is quite certain that this movement is also based on an older model.
The Benedictus is an aria for a solo instrument, probably the flute, and tenor. Stylistically it is one of the most progressive parts in the Mass. The flexible rhythm of both voice and instrument, significantly different from the rather motoric and stereotypical rhythms of the other movements of the Mass, is influenced by the modern Empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style). It is as though Bach had wanted to prove his command of this style in the last aria of the Mass.
Bach completed this part of the Mass without having in mind the architectural plan that shaped the first parts of the composition. The symmetrical plan of the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo, is absent here, and we have no love-duet. But Bach still tries to express the meaning and mood of the text in the music. The Sanctus and the Osanna are extroverted concerto movements, while the Benedictuslike similar movements in masses by Dresden composershas a more intimate character.
Dona nobis pacem
After a repetition of the Osanna, the Agnus Dei is performed by the alto, accompanied by violins. This movement, about the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world, is a dialogue between voice and instruments that lacks the virtuoso character of earlier arias in this Mass. The death of Christ is a place for meditation, not for extroverted virtuosity. It is a parody of a now lost aria. Bach has taken the same aria as a model for his Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11), from 1735, where the text is "Ach bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben" (Oh stay with me, my dearest life).46 Both pieces have a lamenting tone and a pleading character, expressed by chromaticisms in the bass-line and leaps that expose dissonant intervals.
At the end of the whole Mass Bach repeats the Gratias from the Gloria, now with the text Dona nobis pacem. He thus makes a connection between the older parts of the Mass and the newly composed ending.
The B Minor Mass is a showpiece in several respects. At least a third of the twenty-seven movements are taken from earlier compositions (see the table below), but Bach is very careful in the way he reuses the older pieces. He never takes two movements from one model, as he does in several cantatas, his Christmas Oratorio, and his smaller Kyrie-Gloria Masses. Furthermore, in several cases Bach parodies movements in the B Minor Mass that had nearly the same text in the original version as in Latin. He tries to keep the relationship between music and words as close as possible.
Another important point to note is how Bach combines the newer and older parts of the Mass. In the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo he creates a symmetric architectural form that is framed by vocal-instrumental movements and has a Christological section as centerpiece. The movements of the Mass might have their own history, but the way Bach combines them is unique and new.
To know the history of the piece, the different steps of its genesis, is useful, but that does not describe the artwork as it is now. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. I started this essay with some remarks on commercials. Bach composed the first half of the Mass when applying for the title of court composer in Dresden. In order to support his application he employed several stylistic devices he knew from masses in Dresden. But he did not simply imitate them. He combined these devices with his own musical language, his Lutheran theology, and his own sense of musical architecture. He was not successful. Naegeli, despite his advertising campaign, was not successful when he tried to publish the piece at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Is Bach's Mass in B Minor the greatest artwork of all times and all people? A commercial would have to say, "Yes, it is." I'm not going to answer that question. Music is not about better, faster, louder. Listen to the piece yourself; try to hear how Bach builds his baroque palace, his musical Versailles.
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