Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works
Missa Brevis in F major BWV 233

Discussions in the Week of April 18, 2004

Ehud Shiloni wrote (April 23, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote:
< Perhaps it's time to rename this discussion group? I suggest "BachBickeringAdNauseam@yahoo.com"
"Off Topic": Anybody encounter an inspiring recording of Bach's music lately? >
What a breath of fresh air! "Golden words", Pierce,

On the "OT of the week" we were supposed to look at Lutheran Mass BWV 233.

I listened to four recording, and here they are, including conductor, year made, and the Soprano in the "Qui tollis":

1. Redel, 1965, Agnes Giebel.
2. Herreweghe, 1990, Agnes Mellon.
3. McCreesh, 1997, Ann Monoyios.
4. Purcell Quartet [no conductor], 1997, Nancy Argenta.

Bach played a nifty trick with his Missae ["Brevis" or not], by assembling a slection of "the best of" movements and making each Mass into a "hit parade". The results are very satisfying for this listener.

The more learned members may prefer to focus on the non-parody movements such as the Kyrie, but I go were my ears lead me and focus on the beatifull "Qui tollis", even though it is already known from its origin in BWV 102.

Of the four sopranos, I was somewhat dissapointed by Monnoyios, whose performance was not a very confident one. This singer excelled in the early recordings of Rifkin, delivering exquisite moments in both BWV 131 and BWV 106, but here, unfortunately, that magic did not return. The other three were all very satisfying, with Argenta possibly taking a slight advantage.

As a whole, my favorite of the four remained the Purcell Quartet, where the clarity of the small forces have won the day.

A question: Does anyone know if Koopman plans to record the Missae Brevis on the tail end of his cantata project?

So much on this OT. Would like to hear from others here about BWV 233.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 23, 2004):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< As a whole, my favorite of the four remained the Purcell Quartet, where the clarity of the small forces have won the day. >
I too think all four of the Purcell Quartet Masses are terrific - apparently they are recording some Cantatas (presumably also OVPP) but I don't know which ones.

Johan van Veen wrote (April 23, 2004):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< A question: Does anyone know if Koopman plans to record the Missae Brevis on the tail end of his cantata project? >
Never heard of any plans in that direction. He has said in interviews that after the Bach cantata project is finished he wants to record all cantatas by Buxtehude.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 23, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] It would be be logical though, wouldn't it, having recorded everything else? He's obviously a bit of a completist...

John Pike wrote (April 23, 2004):
I have been listening to 2 recordings of the 4 Lutheran masses. This mass is one of my favourites of the 4. I particularly like the Gloria and the next movement, Domine Deus.

The 2 recordings I have are Rilling and the Purcell Quartet on Chandos Chaconne. Both very enjoyable performances. I tend to prefer recordings on period instruments, which the Purcell Quartet recording is. It is also OVPP with a range of top soloists (Nancy Argenta, Michael Chance, Mark Padmore and Peter Harvey) singing the choruses as well as the solos. I think they are very close miked and I prefer the balance in the Rilling recording where I can here more of the wonderful instrumental lines, especially in the Domine Deus. The Chandos recording is coupled with the Lutheran mass BWV 236 (BWV 234 and 235 are on a separate CD) and an arrangement of the organ trio sonata BWV 529 in C, transposed into D for 2 violins, harpsichord and viola da Gamba. This is one of my favourite pieces by Bach, especially the last movment. It is a most enjoyable performance, although there is a point in the last movment where they seem to accelerate a bit, which I always find disconcerting.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 24, 2004):
Mass in F major BWV 233 – Introduction

We have agreed that Year 2004 would be dedicated to systematic discussions of Bach's other vocal works. The order of discussion for 2004 is located at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2004.htm

The chosen work for this week's discussion (April 18, 2004) is the Lutheran Mass in F major BWV 233.

Recordings

The gate to all Short Lutheran works BWV 233-242 is located at the following page of the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242.htm
The recordings of the Short Lutheran works are listed in the following pages of the BCW:
Complete Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242-Rec1.htm
Individual Movements: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242-Rec2.htm

Discussions

The Short Lutheran Works have already been discussed in the BCML, BRML and some other lists. Those discussions are compiled into the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242-Gen.htm

Additional Information

Links to additional useful complementary information can be found at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm
a. Original Latin text and various translations
b. The sources of the Lutheran Masses' music.
c. Commentaries

I warmly recommend to you reading the beautiful description by Michael Sartorius of the background to the composition of the Lutheran Masses. See: http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxsporck.html

Neil Halliday wrote (April 25, 2004):
A sound example can be heard here (from the link supplied by Aryeh in message 7944; there is much interesting information at the home site): http://www.baroquecds.com/musamples.html

The 1971 Flämig recording (ie, in the example) of the 1st movement is very fine indeed, and packs considerable nobility into this brief movement. The choir entries are clear, building into a powerful ensemble; the continuo has strength, the horns have the necessary impact, and the moderate tempo makes for a noble reading.

Herreweghe's recording (1st movement), which I have on tape, is brisk, light, and lacks impact. An annoying feature is the 'messa di voce' treatment applied to every long note from the horns and oboes.

The end of the last movement (Cum Sanctu Spiritu), in the example (Flaemig), shows a somwhat unvarying staccato in the continuo, which is about the only criticism I would make; otherwise the music is unhurried and pleasing. Herrewghe's fast tempo results in the continuo sounding rushed and shapeless.

My favourite movement from the Herreweghe is the 'Quoniam tu solus' alto aria, with violin solo; this features attractive singing, and a sweet and mellow sounding period violin, in some very appealing 'romantic' writing by Bach.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (April 25, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I entirely agree with you. The opening choir of the Flämig recording is very noble and clear. Nice sounds of the male singers. The ending is somewhat staccato and has an overwhelming sound. I like this approach as much as a like Herreweghe's, who is much lighter indeed.

Otto wrote (April 26, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] You can listen to Herreweghes and McCreesh’s versions of BWV 233 in 64 Kbps here at my server: http://musicke.no-ip.com:8080/index.php (64kbps)

Charles Francis wrote (May 1, 2004):
Roman Catholic Mass: BWV 233

Introduction:

In writing about Bach's four short masses, the Protestant Bach biographer, Philipp Spitta, wrote:

"Hier sind prachtvoll entfaltete Blumen von ihren Stengeln geschnitten und zum verwelklichen Sgebunden"
["Here fine open blooms have been cut from their stems and bound in a withering bouquet"]

The Protestant theologian Albert Schweitzer noting that Bach sent them to [Catholic] Dresden "as tokens of his assiduity" commented:

"Barbarischere Parodien (als BWV 233 und 235) lassen sich nicht denken"
["More barbaric parodies (than BWV 233 and 235) cannot be imagined"]

From: http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxsporck.html

"It appears that these four Masses had been commissioned by Count von Sporck, who had been the High Commissioner for Bohemia for a considerable time and lived at Lissa on the Elbe (Lysa-nad-Labem).... As these Masses were liturgically unsuitable for use in Leipzig it seems likely that they were composed expressly for the Count, which would explain the "assemblage" of previously composed cantata movements (most of which the Count would not have known) and the use of the Catholic liturgy."

The article speculates:

"The Count might well have attended Services at St. Thomas' Church, or at least heard some of Bach's cantata choruses in rehearsal. It only remained for the inventive Bach to sidestep any possibility of Bohemian censorship by presenting the Count with some of his best cantata movements cleverly disguised as Catholic liturgical music."

Performances (N.B. review of Kyrie only):

Martin Flämig, DRESDNER KREUZCHOR (1971):
The recording can be purchased at:
http://www.baroquecds.com/7012Web.html

Moreover, an MP3-file of the Kyrie can be found at:
http://www.baroquecds.com/7012Missae1.mp3

I agree with the assessment of Neil:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7986

It is a very good performance.

Hans-Martin Linde, Basler Madrigalisten / Linde-Consort (1979):

This HIP recording was made at a time when it was fashionable to list the dates of the instruments to add an air of "authenticity"; needless to say the instruments are suitably old, although some models (two from 1760, one from 1767) do perhaps let the side down. As the recording dates from a time when Rifkin's OVPP theories were unknown, there are 5 Sopranos, 5 Altos, 5 Tenors and 4 Bases. The recording is well performed, smooth, if lacking in profoundity.

Hickox/Ansermet, Orch. Suisse Romande (1984):

By and large, I agree with the comments of Uri:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/8218

The Kyrie performance features a fairly prominent organ and discrete horns. The trained voices of the female sopranos can be a little overpowering at times, but otherwise a very good recording.

McCreesh, Gabrieli Consiort & Players (1998):
This is a One Voice Per Part (OVPP) recording, featuring a fairly prominent organ. It is a very well executed performance, showing that OVPP can capture emotional depth and doesn't have to be performed in the up-beat "Swingle Singers" manner.

Purcell Quartet, without conductor? (2000)

A superficial recording taken much too fast with an unpleasant Soprano voice dominating the proceedings. The vocal balance is poor. Kellner temperament is an interesting and worthwhile feature of this CD, but unfortunately the Kyrie performance is seriously impaired by others factors.

Conclusion:

Four worthwhile performances, one to avoid.

Best OVPP: McCreesh
Best Traditional: either Flämig or Hickox/Ansermet
Best HIP: Linde

Finally: I must disagree with both the emminent Spitta and Schweitzer. BWV 233 is a fine work - a personal compilation by Bach of his greatest hits.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 2, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< This is a One Voice Per Part (OVPP) recording, featuring a fairly prominent organ. It is a very well executed performance, showing that OVPP can capture emotional depth and doesn't have to be performed in the up-beat "Swingle Singers" manner. >
McCreesh's recording is not OVPP. He uses a small consort of 3.2.2.2.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 2, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
Hickox/Ansermet, Orch. Suisse Romande (1984):
By and large, I agree with the comments of Uri:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/8218
The Kyrie performance features a fairly prominent organ and discrete horns. The trained voices of the female sopranos can be a little overpowering at times, but otherwise a very good recording. >
This recording of BWV233 is conducted by Hickox, not by Ansermet (or Hickox/Ansermet, whatever that might mean)!. The orchestra is not the Suisse Romande orchestra either.

Charles Francis wrote (May 2, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
< This recording of BWV233 is conducted by Hickox, not by Ansermet (or Hickox/Ansermet, whatever that might mean)!. The orchestra is not the Suisse Romande orchestra either. >
You are correct it is actually the Hickox Singers and Orchestra.

< McCreesh's recording is not OVPP. He uses a small consort of 3.2.2.2. >
Thanks for clarifying that.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 2, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Txs for your elaborate review. I think Albert Schweitzer was definitely wrong in his assessment this time. The masses are, like you say, a personal compilation by Bach of his greatest hits. Schweitzer somehow did not like the whole parody process. A re-used work was not unique, and Art was about singular geniality.

The Purcell extrait on the site is interesting. With individual voices you should be much more aware where to come out, and where to just support the other voices. I agree it is too fast, and with poor balance. What about the same part sung by Laurenscantorij. Did you listen to that recording?

Charles Francis wrote (May 2, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Was that the wedding link? I tried for ages to find a music link, but eventually gave up. How do I find it?

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 2, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] No, I mean the link on the Music section on Areyh's site, at the masses.

As for the wedding link. It is still there on: http://www.ikonrtv.nl/kerkdiensten/uitzending.asp?oId=262. You should then click on : "Bekijk de uitzending". You will see the couple entering the church on the tunes of BWV 137, and at the end of the service they are leaving the church on BWV 34. Unfortunately, Brad and Neil were not able to receive the streaming video. Let's see if you manage to get something.

Ludwig wrote (May 2, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] I submit that the so called 'roman' mass was not a roman' mass at all but most definitely a high form of the lutheran mass and was in latin because that was the international language of the elete and literate people of the times.

Lutheran and the Church of England of which are now one (THE EVANGELICALS) and the same body in America----have liturgies that are the same OR very similar as the Roman Church with major differences----the lack of the cult of mary and the cult of the adoration of Saints in most cases (although some HIGH Churches not only engage in the bells and smells things and may even say the rosary.) and failure to recognize the Pope as the ulitimate leader of Christendom.

We also must remember that Bach near the end of his life was not only famous but associated with what is now a University which at that time called for even daily speach to others of such stations in Latin. Further evidence of this is supported by the works and life of John Milton, the great English Poet.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 4, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
<< McCreesh's recording is not OVPP. He uses a small consort of 3.2.2.2. >>
Charles Francis wrote: < Thanks for clarifying that. >
Could you not hear it?

Charles Francis wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I d't hear anything in McCreesh's recording which is at odds with Parrott's "Essential Bach Choir" or with Rifkin's paradigm of One Voice Per Part. Granted there were ripienists as well as soloists, but that is kosher, n'est pas?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] That doesn't answer the question!

Charles Francis wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] McCreesh's ripienists do enhance the music, IMO. But note, Rifkin's OVPP theory does not stipulate a maximum of 4-singers, but acknowledges Bach used ripienists (re: the "Entwurf").

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] True, but if you describe a performance as OVPP you are stating that it is performed with One Voice to a Part! Flummery along the lines of "I didn't hear anything in McCreesh's recording which is at odds with Parrott's "Essential Bach Choir" still doesn't answer my question "Could you not hear it" (...that McCreesh's recording uses a small choir of 3.2.2.2.)

The fact that this needed clarifying, by me, and the lack of a stright answer to my question suggest that you couldn't hear the difference between OVPP and a small choir, and that in turn casts doubt on the other judgements expressed.....

Charles Francis wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Rightly or wrongly 'OVPP' tends to be equated with Rifkin's performance theories as outlined in, for example, Parrott's book "The Essential Bach Choir". I fully accept that this is sloppy language and welcome your clarification of the misleading terminology. I suggest that in future we reserve the term 'One Voice Per Part (OVPP)' for a performance practice which adheres to an extreme and unhistorical dogma of excluding ripienists.

[OT: If any of my responses strike you as "flummery", it is only because I try to respect the new group guidelines posted today on the group Web page. Needles to say, your extrapolations from the negative are misguided.]

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] As you wish,
An inability to distinguish the sound of a single soprano from that of three in unison tells its own story about the hearer's competence to judge the competence of others.

Charles Francis wrote (May 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Indeed it would! Likewise, an inability to distinguish a valid inference from a fallacious inference (drawing a conclusion from a negative) tells its own story about ones competence to judge the competence of others.

But, I'm afraid your posting (and therefore my reply) is in violation of "Guideline A". Likewise, your post is apparently in violation of "Guideline F" and "Guideline E". Moreover, I am now perhaps in violation of Guideline I, but hopefully since the subject is marked "OT", this can be overlooked. But lest I be accused of ignoring "Guideline G", please do not interpret my remarks in any way as a recommendation for correct behaviour on this group; rather take my remarks as a clarification of my own unwillingness to respond to your question in the terms you might have expected.

 

Discussions in the Week of October 10, 2010

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 10, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 233 -- Missa Brevis, F

This weeks discussion represents a break in the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension , Pentecost, and Trinity. Details re the Missa Brevis (also frequently titled Lutheran Mass) BWV 233, as well as similar masses and related movements, are at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV233-242.htm

and archives of previous discussions specific to BWV 233 can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV233.htm

Note that there is also much relevant material in the general discussions, and in the section devoted to the group BWV 233-236. I find this chart especially helpful: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV233-236-Sco.htm

It details the cantata sources of most of mass movements. The same data is presented in the Oxford Composer Companions - J.S.Bach (OCC), although without such graphic emphasis on the importance of four particular works, BWVs 102, 79, 187, and 179. The OCC article by RALeaver also includes a concise suggestion of Bachs motivation to write these masses:
<They [are consistent with other works which] form part of his continuing concern to organize his compositional output into collections of related pieces. But Bach was probably motivated by practical concerns as well. Cantatas composed for the individual Sundays and festivals in the Church calendar were closely associated with the occasion for which they were written and could usually be performed only once in any year. But if movements from various cantatas were reworked into settings of the Kyrie and Gloria, then the music could be performed several times in any year, because such concerted settings were required in Leipzig at the major festivals and other celebrations.> (end quote)

For alternative speculation re motivation (Sporck theory), see the BCW link to baroquemusic.org. For challenge to the Sporck theory, see post in archives from Thomas Braatz at the BWV233-236 link.

There are 41 recordings in the BCW discography, which should put to rest the notion that the works are little known. Among the important and popular ones discussed previously are the sets by Herreweghe, Purcell Quartet, and Publick Musick. BWV 233, the specific work for this week, is included in the very fine Epiphany Mass by Paul McCreesh.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 10, 2010):
Missa Brevis in F - Bach's Five Masses

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The OCC article by RALeaver also includes a concise suggestion of Bach's motivation to write these masses: "They [are consistent with other workswhich] form part of his continuing concern to organize his compositional output into collections of related pieces. ... But if movements from various cantatas were reworked into settings of the Kyrie and Gloria, then the music could be performed several times in any year, because such concerted settings were required in Leipzig at the major festivals and other celebrations."
For alternative speculation re motivation (Sporck theory), see the BCW link to baroquemusic.org. For challenge to the Sporck theory, see post in archives from Thomas Braatz at the BWV233-236 link >
The Mass in F Major is a magnificent, large-scale work from Bach's final decade and yet is universally ignored and under-appreciated by performers and scholars alike.

There are a few salient questions which need to be posed ...

1) What genre does this mass belong to?

This mass is always called a "missa brevis", a "Lutheran mass" or even worse a "shorter mass." It is none of these: Bach called it a "missa." It is a representative work of what I'll call the "collective" mass as opposed to the "cyclical" mass. Unlike the cyclical mass which had Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus & Benedictus and Agnus, Bach's "missa" contained Kyrie and Gloria and the other movements were drawn from other settings.

This collective mass (aka "pastiche" mass -- a term as inappropriate as "parody" cantata) can be seen as a strong parallel tradition as early as the 16th century, especially in the Venice-Munich-Vienna axis. At the turn of the 17th century, Gabrieli wrote a Kyrie-Gloria pair which is not part of a cyclical mass. The tradition of stand-alone Glorias which could be combined with other movements was especially strong in Venice: Monteverdi's "Gloria a 6" and Vivaldi's ubiquitous "Gloria" are spectacular examples.

The tradition was alive and well as late as Mozart -- we might even consider Bach's four masses as proto-members of the Viennese tradition! The Great Mass in C Minor is always described as "unfinished", yet Mozart treated it as a "collective" mass at its premiere in 1783, although we don't know which other mass sections he used. Two important points here:

a) Mozart went on to write other mass settings in the decade afterwards. He may well have considered the CMinor finished as a collective mass.

b) The Kyrie and Gloria are complete and it was to these sections as a unit that Mozart turned when he reused the music for an oratorio.

In his book on the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), Stauffer demonstrates that the collective mass was an especially strong tradition at the Catholic Chapel Royal in Dresden and that Kyrie-Gloria pairings were described as "missae." When Bach referred to a "missa", both Catholic and Lutheran musicians would know what he was talking about.

The Lutheran Sunday service was always a collective mass which at its base was the Kyrie & Gloria and the Sanctus (all of Bach's Sanctus settings were independent movements). The Benedictus was omitted but the Credo could also be sung in Latin to Gregorian chant (in addition as a chorale "Wir Glauben'). The stand-alone "Credo" of the "Mass in B Minor" (BWV 232) demonstrates that concerted Latin settings were occasionally used. The Agnus Dei could be sung in a Latin setting but more often than not the chorale setting was used.

There is nothing abbreviated or miniature about the Missa in F Major. It is written in eight movements which take over half an hour to perform. That's a scale commensurate with the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232).

2) Why did Bach write these masses?

In his last decade, Bach suddenly turned to the composition and performance of concerted mass to complement the older motet-style contrapuntal settings which can be found in his standard Vopelius collection. The obvious answer is that Bach wanted to introduce more concerted, cantata-style settings of the mass to keep Leipzig au courant with modern church music. There isn't much support for the Sporck commission thesis anymore.

That he left this genre to the last decade of his life has left some to suggest that Bach may have been angling for more than an honorary appointment at the Dresden court: he may have considered applying to be the head of the Catholic chapel. The missae would be valuable works to have in hand. Bach had strong family and musical connections in Dresden. Stauffer comes close to suggesting a Dresden career.

3) Why didn't Bach write original music for these Latin masses?

Bach was an accomplished setter of original music for Latin words. The Sanctus settings and above all the Magnificat demonstrate an extraordinary literary and musical affinity to the Latin texts. And yet Bach chose the infinitely more difficult task of adapting existing cantatas with German texts to the Latin texts. I would suggest that the four "missae" were in fact dry runs for the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). Having chosen this tortuous compositional path, Bach needed to experiment with the process of transforming German texts into Latin. In some cases, the results were extraordinary: I wrote earlier about the unique adaptation in the Missa in A Major.

4) Are their relationships to the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232)?

The F major mass is full of resemblances to the B minor mass (BWV 232) which demonstrates that it shares much of Bach's general approach to mass composition:

* The work is a large-scale setting with a big, festal orchestra. If Bach had chosen to use trumpets instead of horns, the resemblance would have been unavoidable.

* The three sections of the Kyrie are set as three movements, in this case in the stile antico contrapuntal style which is used in Mvt 3 of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)

* The Gloria chorus has a syncopated 3/8 fugal theme which is very similar to opening Gloria of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)

* Unlike the Magnificat but like the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the F Major Mass does not shy away from using da capo arias. There is little concern for the longuers of Sunday morning.

* As in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), the "Qui Tollis" is linked to the previous movement.

* The Cum Sancto already follows the Neapolitan model of an extended fugue.

I spent a lot of time with this mass last year while building a historical reconstruction of a Bach mass for a concert by the Tallis Choir of Toronto. It is a masterpiece.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 11, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The Mass in F Major is a magnificent, large-scale work from Bach's final decade and yet is universally ignored and under-appreciated by performers and scholars alike. >
Thanks for the detailed and informative post, including personal performance experience!

I hope everyone will take note of Dougs subject line, placing BWV 233 in a group of five (not the conventional four) works, which includes the BMM, BWV 232 -- conventionally treated as an independent and more or less unique masterpiece. Correction invited if I have misinterpreted. I see that Robin Leaver in his OCC article (which I cited in my intentionally brief introduction) refers to five missae: BWV 233-36 and Anh. II 29. In the same paragraph, however, he also refers to <four complete Lutheran missae [BWV 233-36]>, and his language clearly conveys that he considers these works to be of quality and technique comparable to BWV 232, which is also how I interpret Doug.

DC
< This mass is always called a "missa brevis", a "Lutheran mass" or even worse a "shorter mass." It is none of these: Bach called it a "missa." >
EM:
In fairness to Robin Leaver, he also acknowledges the inappropriate nature of the standard terminology. Nevertheless, I used missa brevis to remain consistent with earlier BCW archives. Dougs explanation is clear and accurate, once again putting us (BCW archives) in the forefront.

DC:
< The Lutheran Sunday service was always a collective mass which at its base was the Kyrie & Gloria and the Sanctus (all of Bach's Sanctus settings were independent movements). >
EM:
Doug, do you mean that a collective mass was regularly performed, every Sunday? I have interpreted some of your previous comments that way, as well, but I notice that both Leaver and McCreesh (notes to Epiphany Mass CD) indicate that a collective mass was reserved for <major festivals and other celebrations>, and I cited Leaver to that effect.

DC:
< There is nothing abbreviated or miniature about the Missa in F Major. It is written in eight movements which take over half an hour to perform. That's a scale commensurate with the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). >
EM:
I isolate that statement, with which I agree heartily, only for emphasis.

When writing my introduction, I did not realize that Aryeh has posted links to recent/important recordings of the current discussion work on the BCW Main Page. I encourage anyone who does not yet know these works (BWV 233-36) to take the opportunity of the present discussion to get acquainted. The remaining missae will come up for discussion, one per year, throughout the ongoing cantata discussion cycle.

DC:
< 2) Why did Bach write these masses?
In his last decade, Bach suddenly turned to the composition and performance of concerted mass to complement the older motet-style contrapuntal settings which can be found in his standard Vopelius collection. >
Leaver is in agreement with this chronology, citing the decade between 1737-8 and 1747-8 as the period of composition for BWV 233-36. I would rethink the word suddenly, however. Are not the Kyrie and Gloria (subsequently included in the complete BWV 232) accurately dated as complete by July 1733? The OCC article on BWV 232 in fact suggests this as an extension of an even earlier tradition, beginning with <the D major Sanctus, composed for Christmas 1724.>

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 11, 2010):
EMyskowski wrote:
< Doug, do you mean that a collective mass was regularly performed, every Sunday? >
I should have been more precise. Collective concerted masses were probably performed on the two dozen or so principal Sundays and feast days of the year. Bach performed the "Missa" (Kyrie & Gloria) of two masses by JL Bach, as well as those by Durante and Pez.

On ordinary Sundays, collective masses were sung in "a capella" settings. The Vopelius collection which contained the polyphonic mass responses for Bach's choirs had several 16th and 17th century settings which were not cyclical masses. Among the more famous settings which Bach performed was Palestrina's Missa Sine Nomine. True to his tradition, Bach only performed the "missa" section, the Kyrie & Gloria.

It is interesting that several of the polyphonic settings of the Sanctus in the Vopelius collections are set for the unusual scoring of six voices. That tradition may have informed the layout of the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232).

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 17, 2010):
BWV 233 - Recordings

I note in preparing for next weeks discussion (BWV 166) that Doug Cowling provided a complete synopsis of the liturgy in the previous discussion, 2006. This ties in nicely with a few comments appropriate to BWV 233, included in the Bach Epiphany Mass 2-CD set by Gabrielli Consort and Players, led by Paul McCreesh. The recording is intended to replicate just such a complete Sunday liturgy from Bachs time in Leipzig. I have ben reluctant to emphasize this recording, since it has lapsed out-of-print and appears to be only available as a high-priced collectible. On reflection and relistening, it is my personal choice for the best version of BWV 233, independent of the fine context of the the 2-CD set of the Lutheran liturgy.

An outstanding feature of the McCreesh presentation is the use of an original Bach era church organ, with these comments in the booklet from James Johnstone (organ soloist):
<The demands of present-day concerts and recordings are such that we are used to hearing Bachs concerted music with small chamber organs. It has therefore been a fascinating experience to be among the first musicians to capture on CD the sound of a relatively large organ at the core of Bachs ensemble. Here, the sound of the organ is very much the fundament of the ensemble, supporting small numbers of instruments in concerted movements, and creating a much more colorful background in the recitatives.> (end quote)

With respect to previous discussions in BCW archives, note that the McCreesh recording is not OVPP. It is intended to represent the experience of soloists and ripienists, which is consistent with the published ideas of Rifkin and others, re Bachs performing ensembles.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 17, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< comments appropriate to BWV 233, included in the Bach Epiphany Mass 2-CD set by Gabrielli Consort and Players, led by Paul McCreesh. The recording is intended to replicate just such a complete Sunday liturgy from Bach’s time in Leipzig. >
This was a fine performance (perhaps a tad on the fast side) which displayed the Missa in F Major as part of grand liturgy. The recording is still an invaluable educational tool, especially in the performance of chorales, which differs radically from modern hymn-playing.

I include my program note for the Tallis Choir of Toronto's concert reconstruction of the Mass for the Second Day of Christmas which included the F Major Missa:

********************************************************
Bach: Mass of Christmas

A Lutheran Mass for the Second Day of Christmas as it may have been celebrated on December 26, 1745 in St. Nicholas¹ Church, Leipzig, under the direction of Johann Sebastian Bach

On the morning of December 26, 1745, Johann Sebastian Bach was awake early. There was no Boxing Day sleep-in: the first three days of Christmas were celebrated with lavish music at both mass in the morning and vespers in the afternoon. Bach said good-bye to his wife, Anna Magdalena, and young daughters and sent his two remaining sons off ahead to take their places in the school choirs (his older adult sons from his first marriage, Carl Philip and Wilhelm Friedemann, were already established musicians in other cities.) As he left his apartment in the St. Thomas School, Bach could hear the activity as the choirs prepared to leave to sing at the four churches under his supervision. Bach probably paused for a short staff meeting with his four assistant conductors. These ³prefects² were in fact talented professional musicians in their 20¹s who were serving a coveted apprenticeship with Bach. One would even be a later successor to Bach. They did the bulk of musical preparation that left the master free for composition.

On that morning, Bach was preparing to direct the music at St. Nicholas¹ Church. The finest music alternated morning and afternoon between the two principal churches, St. Nicholas and St. Thomas. The cantata for this morning would be repeated in the afternoon at St. Thomas¹. The residential choir school was a large, endowed institution not unlike King¹s College, Cambridge. Upon entrance, all students were auditioned and assigned to one of the four choirs. The first choir was made up of the serious musicians: they would have responsibility for the concerted cantatas and masses under Bach¹s personal direction. The second and third choirs sang a demanding repertoire of 16th and 17th century motets: a double choir work of Gabrieli or Schütz was typical. The fourth choir was the destination of tone-deaf footballers who could only manage hymns. As Bach walked through the quiet streets ­ carriage traffic was prohibited on Sundays and festivals ­ he contemplated the task ahead: a three to four hour Lutheran mass during which he would be expected to dazzle worshippers with his legendary organ-playing and spectacular choral works. Leipzig was no provincial backwater. Civic pride demanded musical magnificence, and Bach gave masterworks to the citizens and to history.

When Martin Luther formulated the new German mass in 1526, he provided two orders. The German Mass was intended for smaller parishes and replaced ritual items such as the Kyrie and Gloria with vernacular hymns or chorales. This was the order which came to be used almost universally in Europe and which was brought to North America by Lutheran immigrants. However, Luther also provided a second order, the Formula Missae, which retained Latin and was intended for large urban and collegiate churches that had choir schools. Luther was an accomplished musician ­ his favorite composer was Josquin ­ and he wanted the tradition of daily choral services with polyphony maintained. When Bach came as Cantor to St. Thomas, Leipzig, in 1723, he came as the latest star in a three hundred year history of superb music-making.

Arriving at St. Nicholas¹, Bach climbed the tower stairs to the choir loft at the back of the church. Towering above the loft to the left was the huge organ gleaming in the white and gold Baroque decoration which had overlaid the original medieval building. On the right were the shuttered boxes of privileged citizens. Bach greeted the men who would sing tenor and bass with the boys. They were paid ³externs² and came from the university and from school alumni. Also present were the instrumentalists from the city¹s company of professional musicians: today the strings would be joined by horns, oboes and bassoon. This was not a quaint little parish operation: this was a first-class ensemble known all over Germany.

Bach took up his position with the orchestra. He would of course slide onto the organ bench to play his own works, but he preferred to lead orchestral works as concert-master with the first violins or from the desk of violas where he could have closer control of the performers. At 7 a.m. the tower bell began to toll. Any musiarriving late would be fined. The boys began to pump the bellows of the organ, and Bach started to play his opening prelude. The clergy in their embroidered silk vestments entered the sanctuary. The celebration of the Second Day of Christmas had begun.

Douglas Cowling © 2009

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 17, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I include my program note for the Tallis Choir of Toronto's concert >reconstruction of the Mass for the Second Day of Christmas which included >the F Major Missa: >
Thanks for adding this informative scenario to the BCW archives, and for adding comments during the week emphasizing the proper place of BWV 233 as a major work in the group of Bachs five masses, alongside the universally regarded BMM (BWV 232).

 

Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242: Details
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Last update: ýNovember 28, 2010 ý18:32:23