Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B minor, BWV 232”, a musical setting of the complete Ordinary of the Latin Mass. Le Concert des Nations & La Capella Reial de Catalunya; conducted by Jordi Savall. Recorded at the Abbaye de Fontfroide, Narbonne on July 19, 2011.
- 00:00:42 – Kyrie
- 00:18:05 – Gloria
- 00:52:30 – Credo (“Symbolum Nicenum”)
- 01:22:57 – Sanctus
- 01:37:00 – Agnus Dei
- Céline Scheen: soprano
- Yetzabel Arias: soprano
- Pascal Bertin: countertenor
- Makoto Sakurada: tenor
- Stephan Macleod: bass
Le Concert des Nations & La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Conducted by Jordi Savall
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor, BWV 232
The work was one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s last compositions, not completed until 1749, the year before his death.
Bach did not give the B minor Mass a title. Instead, he organized the 1748-49 manuscript into four folders, each with a different title. That containing the Kyrie and Gloria he called “1. Missa”; that containing the Credo he titled “2. Symbolum Nicenum”; the third folder, containing the Sanctus, he called “3. Sanctus”; and the remainder, in a fourth folder he titled “4. Osanna | Benedictus | Agnus Dei et | Dona nobis pacem”.
English orchestral and choral conductor, organist, harpsichordist, and scholar John Butt writes, “The format seems purposely designed so that each of the four sections could be used separately.”
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. Further, Butt writes, “What is most remarkable about the overall shape of the Mass in B Minor is that Bach managed to shape a coherent sequence of movements from diverse material.” Butt and Professor of Music History George Stauffer detail the ways in which Bach gave overall musical unity to the work.
The first overall title given to the work was in the 1790 estate of the recently deceased C.P.E. Bach, who inherited the score. There, it is called “Die grosse catholische Messe” (the “Great Catholic Mass”). It is called that as well in the estate of his last heir in 1805, suggesting to Stauffer that “the epithet reflects an oral tradition within the Bach family”.
The first publication of the Kyrie and Gloria, in 1833 by the Swiss collector Hans Georg Nägeli with Simrock, refers to it as “Messe” Finally, Nageli and Simrock produced the first publication in 1845, calling it the “High Mass in B Minor” (Hohe Messe in h-moll).
The adjective “high”, Butt argues, was “strongly influenced by the monumental impact of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis.” It soon fell from common usage, but the prepositional phrase “in B Minor” survives, even though it is in some ways misleading: only five of the work’s 27 movements are in B minor, while twelve, including the final ones of each of the four major sections, are in D major (the relative major of B minor).
The opening Kyrie, however, is in B minor, with the Christe Eleison in D major, and the second Kyrie in F-sharp minor; as Butt points out, these tonalities outline a B minor chord.
La Capella Reial de Catalunya & Le Concert des Nations
La Capella Reial de Catalunya is a group of soloist singers with the aim of making the repertoire of Catalan historical music and, by extension, that of Spanish and other music widely known throughout the world. The group was formed in Barcelona in 1987 by its conductor Jordi Savall. La Capella Reial de Catalunya often performs with Le Concert des Nations, a period-instrument group also founded and conducted by Savall.
Le Concert des Nations is an orchestra with period instruments, able to perform the orchestral and symphonic repertoire from the Baroque to Romanticism: 1600 – 1850. The orchestra was created in 1989, the youngest of the groups conducted by the Catalan maestro and viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall.
Le Concert des Nations is the first orchestra of its kind made up of musicians who originate mainly from Latin countries (Spain, South America, Italy, Portugal, France as well as many other countries). The name Le Concert des Nations refers to the work by François Couperin as an assembly of “tastes” and bears the mark of the Age of Enlightenment. Le Concert des Nations is the orchestra of La Capella Reial de Catalunya.
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