J.S. Bach Mass in B Minor Programme - I Missa

1. Kyrie eleison

2. Christe eleison

3. Kyrie eleison

4. Gloria in excelsis Deo

5. Et in terra pax

6. Laudamus te

7. Gratias agimus tibi

8. Domine Deus

9. Qui tollis

10. Qui sedes

11. Quoniam tu solus sanctus

12. Cum Sancto Spiritu

The magnificence of the work is signalled at the very outset with the mighty adagio five-part setting of the words "Kyrie eleison" succeeded by a fugal section of architectural grandeur and complexity. The Christe eleison is a delicious Italianate duet for sopranos with a charming ritornello for strings that would not be out of place in a Handel opera. The second Kyrie, for four-part choir and marked "alla breve", is in the old church style, firm and convincing. The first part of the Gloria, a joyous outpouring, was probably reworked from a now lost instrumental movement. The contrasting beatific and ultimately victorious setting of "Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" was grafted on to it without a break. The Laudamus te, with its angelic soprano solo balanced by an equally angelic violin obbligato, has all the hallmarks of having originally been a violin duet.

The Gratias is an almost straight copy of the opening chorus of Cantata No. 29 (1731), whose words "Wir danken dir, Gott" ("We thank Thee, O God") represent a literal German translation of the Latin text set here with such solemn nobility and assurance. The Domine Deus is a lovely duet for tenor and soprano, whose accompaniment for flute and muted strings has a fairy lightness. It leads directly into the Qui tollis, a revision of part of the opening chorus of Cantata No. 46 (1723), "Schauet doch und sehet" ('Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow'). Note how the flutes weave their heavenly arabesques above long choral lines and heavy, throbbing, earthbound bass crotchets.

In Qui sedes, the vocal alto solo is matched by the instrument of corresponding pitch, the oboe d'amore. The Quoniam, with its dark tones of horn obbligato and well-rounded bassoon duet figurations, provides an impressive vehicle for the baritone soloist, and leads straight into the gloriously jubilant Cum Sancto Spiritu, complete with agile choral fugue, marking the end of Bach's original Missa.