J.S. Bach Mass in B Minor
Organization of Movements

Xinh's project for Mu123, spring/1996 [Bach home page]
Choir and Organ Loft of St. Thomas Church
by Alexandre H. Hohmann, 1996

Comparison with Catholic Mass

The structure of Bach's Mass in B Minor is based on the Roman Catholic mass text. However, Bach's organization of the 27 movements reflects his Protestant background. The traditional Catholic mass contains 5 major sections, while the movements in Bach's mass are grouped into 4 sections:

Catholic mass
  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Credo
  • Sanctus (includes Osanna and Benedictus)
  • Agnus Dei
  • Bach's B-Minor Mass
  • Missa (includes Kyrie and Gloria)
  • Symbolum Nicenum (Credo)
  • Sanctus
  • Last section (Osanna, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei)
  • As shown above, Bach combined the Kyrie and Gloria into the Missa, according to the common practice of that time. He renamed the Credo as Symbolum Nicenum according to Lutheran tradition. Finally, the Osanna and Benedictus, which appeared in the Sanctus section of the Catholic mass was removed from the Sanctus by Bach and placed in the last section of his mass. In summary, the text used in the B-Minor Mass is the same as the traditional Catholic mass text, except that Bach modified the grouping of individual movements. The original order of individual movements, however, is retained.

    Choruses and Arias

    The individual movements are either choruses or arias, which are represented in even proportions throughout the work. The chorus movements feature the entire choir with orchestral accompaniment. The arias typically have a solo or duet vocal part and one or two obligatto instruments, accompanied by orchestra. Here I list the movements in order of performance:

    I. MISSA

  • Kyrie eleison (5-part chorus)
  • Christe eleison (Duet, soprano I,II)
  • Kyrie eleison (4-part chorus)
  • Gloria
  • Gloria in excelsis (5-part chorus)
  • Et in terra pax (5-part chorus)
  • Laudamus te (Aria, soprano II with violin obbligato)
  • Gratias agimus tibi (4-part chorus)
  • Domine Deus (Duet, soprano I, tenor)
  • Qui tollis peccata mundi (4-part chorus)
  • Qui sedes ad dexteram patris (Aria, alto with oboe d'amore obbligato)
  • Quoniam tu solus sanctus (Aria, bass with corno da caccia obbligato)
  • Cum sancto spiritu (5-part chorus)

  • Credo in unum Deum (5-part chorus)
  • Patrem omnipotentem (4-part chorus)
  • Et in unum Dominum (Duet, soprano I, alto)
  • Et incarnatus est (5-part chorus)
  • Crucifixus (4-part chorus)
  • Et resurrexit (5-part chorus)
  • Et in spiritum sanctum (Aria, bass with oboi d'amore obbligati)
  • Confiteor (5-part chorus)
  • Et expecto (5-part chorus)
  • Sanctus (6-part chorus)
  • Osanna (8-part double chorus)
  • Benedictus (Aria, tenor with violin obbligato)
  • Osanna (8-part double chorus)
  • Agnus Dei
  • Agnus Dei (Aria, alto with violin obbligato)
  • Dona nobis pacem (4-part chorus)

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    Last updated: May 16, 1996