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Bach's Major Vocal WorksMusic, Drama, Liturgy$
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Markus Rathey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300217209

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300217209.001.0001

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Between Opera and Architecture

Between Opera and Architecture

The B Minor Mass BWV 232

(p.166) Chapter Seven Between Opera and Architecture
Bach's Major Vocal Works

Markus Rathey

Yale University Press

This chapter examines Johann Sebastian Bach’s B Minor Mass, considered by Hans Georg Nägeli to be the ‘greatest artwork of all times and all people’. The history of B Minor Mass started as a sort of advertising campaign. Bach himself created the first parts of the mass, the Kyrie and Gloria, in order to apply for the title of court composer in Dresden in 1733. This chapter first discusses the main subject of B Minor Mass, noting that it is the text of the Christian liturgy, the cry Kyrie eleison–Lord, have mercy; the praise of God in the Gloria in excelsis; the confession of faith in the Creed, Credo in unum Deum, and the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery in the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. It then explores the use of operatic drama as a tool for the interpretation of the text and the Mass’ large-scale architecture, which indicates Bach’s interest in balance and proportion. It also asks whether the Mass is indeed the greatest artwork of all times and all people.

Keywords:   opera, Johann Sebastian Bach, B Minor Mass, Hans Georg Nägeli, advertising, Kyrie, Gloria, liturgy, drama, architecture

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