[lbs logo] [lbs logo]

BACH MUSIC DATABASE

LATIN CHURCH MUSIC
INTRODUCTORY PAGE


Latin Church Music:

Some background
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was not only the founder of the Reformation in Germany, he is also regarded as the founder of Protestant German Church Music. His approach towards the Liturgy and its music was liberal and he is reputed to have written "Music is a beautiful and gracious gift from God to be encouraged both in church and in the home". Luther certainly practiced that belief for he was a fine singer, lutenist and flautist and his family gathered together daily to sing motets. To his church, Luther not only gave his name, but chorales and a German-texted Mass, the Deutsche Messe und Ordnung Gottesdienst which was first used on Christmas Day 1524 and later published in 1526 (Just two hundred years later Bach provided a six-part setting of the Sanctus for Christmas Day 1724, a setting that would later be included in his famous compilation the Mass in b BWV 232). To help with the preparation of the German Mass, Luther had the assistance of two excellent musicians, Conrad Rupff, Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, and one Johann Walther, Cantor to the Court of Frederick the Wise at Torgau. Walther himself provided a famous collection of polyphonic chorale settings Geistliche Gesangbüchlein between 1524 and 1551 at Wittenburg.

Bach's Latin Church Music
Prior to his appointment at Leipzig, Bach had to undergo some rigorous examination in Lutheran theology and sign up to the Concordienbuch, which set out clearly the doctrines to be followed, and which he was expected to uphold. Bach was well qualified to do this as his own Library was stocked with the writings of Martin Luther and the composer clearly saw his provision of a 'well-regulated church music' as a humble complement and sincere expression of his faith. Music was central to the Lutheran church service. However, instead of devising a completely new format, the Catholic Mass was suitably adapted and therefore it is no surprise that there is a generous collection of Latin church music in the Bach treasury, including two versions of the Magnificat, four Lutheran Masses (five if you include the Missa* BWV 232), a Latin texted Cantata (BWV 191) and for many the ultimate Bach work, his Mass in B minor, which incorporated the earlier Missa. It is in the Missae and the Mass in b that we experience again Bach's use of parody and his shameless reworking of earlier movements that first see the light of day in his collection of church or secular cantatas. When compiling the Mass in b most of the material incorporated appears elsewhere:

Gloria in excelsis Deo BWV 191 ) Gloria
Gratias BWV 29 ) Gloria
Qui tollis BWV 46 )
 
Patrem BWV 171 ) Credo
Crucifixus BWV 12 )
Et expecto BWV 120, 120a and 120b )
 
Osanna BWV 215  
Agnus Dei BWV 11 (itself a reworking from a lost cantata)

*Missae - Kyrie and Gloria only
The origins of the short Masses (BWV 233-236 ) are identified on the relevant pages and additional notes are given throughout where appropriate. Here they are in more detail:

Mass Cantata Movement in the Mass
 
BWV 233 in F BWV 102 No 3 Gloria - Qui tollis
  BWV 102 No 5 Gloria - Quoniam
  BWV 40 No 1 Gloria - Cum sancto
 
BWV 234 in A BWV 67 No 6 Gloria - Gloria in excelsis Deo
  BWV 179 No 5 Gloria - Qui tollis
  BWV 79 No 2 Gloria - Quoniam
  BWV 136 No 1 Gloria - Cum sancto
 
BWV 235 in G minor BWV 102 No 1 Kyrie - Kyrie eleison
  BWV 72 No 1 Gloria - Gloria in excelsis Deo
  BWV 187 No 4 Gloria - Gratias
  BWV 187 No 3 Gloria - Domine Fili
  BWV 187 No 5 Gloria - Quoniam
  BWV 187 No 1 Gloria - Cum sancto
 
BWV 236 in G BWV 179 No 1 Kyrie - Kyrie eleison
  BWV 79 No 1 Gloria - Gloria in excelsis Deo
  BWV 138 No 5 Gloria - Gratias
  BWV 79 No 5 Gloria - Domine Deus
  BWV 179 No 3 Gloria - Quoniam
  BWV 17 No 1 Gloria - Cum sancto

© Margaret Steinitz