Mass in B minor structure
|Mass in B minor |
Autograph of the title page of the first book, Missa
|Movements||27 in 4 parts (12 + 9 + 1 + 5)|
Bach structured the work in four parts:
The four sections of the manuscript are numbered, and Bach's usual closing formula (S.D.G =
Some parts of the mass were used in Latin even in
The Mass is a
The Mass was Bach's last major artistic undertaking. The reason for the composition is unknown. Scholars have found no plausible occasion for which the work may have been intended. Joshua Rifkin notes:
... likely, Bach sought to create a paradigmatic example of vocal composition while at the same time contributing to the venerable musical genre of the Mass, still the most demanding and prestigious apart from opera.
Bach first composed
In deepest Devotion I present to your Royal Highness this small product of that science which I have attained in Musique, with the most humble request that you will deign to regard it not according to the imperfection of its Composition, but with a most gracious eye ... and thus take me into your most mighty Protection.
He arranged the text in diverse movements for a five-part choir and solo voices, according to the taste in Dresden where sacred music "borrowed" from Italian opera with a focus on choral movements, as
Bach expanded the Missa of 1733 to a Missa tota from 1748 to 1749, near the end of his life. In these last years, he added three choral movements for the Credo: its opening Credo in unum Deum, Confiteor and Et incarnatus est. The Sanctus was originally an individual movement composed for Christmas 1724 in
Most other movements of the mass are
Bach achieved a symmetry of the parts, with the profession of faith (Credo) in the center and the movement Crucifixus in its center. Markus Rathey, Associate Professor of Music History at the Institute of Sacred Music at the
The symmetry on earth mirrors the symmetric perfection of heaven. The purpose of art at this time—in architecture, the visual arts, and music—was not to create something entirely new, but to reflect this divine perfection, and in this way to praise God. We find such a symmetric outline in many pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach,19 but only in a few cases is this outline as consequent as in the B Minor Mass.
The parts Kyrie, Gloria and Credo are all designed with choral sections as the outer movements, framing an intimate center of theological significance.