Laudamus te, benedicimus te, 

adoramus te, glorificamus te.

We praise Thee, we bless Thee,

we worship Thee, we glorify Thee.

This movement, for counter-tenor and violin obbligato, is a florid and highly decorated piece of writing, demanding to sing because of the long phrases and ornamentation, and featuring a good deal of rhythmic syncopation. Halfway through the music appears to come to a complete stop (as you might expect in a da capo aria, which this is not), but then Bach appears to change his mind and the tempo resumes and continues until the end.

Gratias agimus tibi 

propter magnam gloriam tuam.

We give thanks to Thee 

for Thy great glory.

The music for this section is a parody of Bach’s earlier Cantata 29 of 1731. It is a powerful fugue; the four part texture being doubled by the instruments, with the trumpet reserved for the soprano line, until the climax, when the three trumpets take on independent lines in a kind of stratospheric dialogue high above the voices. The fugue subject is a rising scale of four notes, which again is introduced from the basses upwards in pitch order. Bach uses exactly the same music, but with different words, for the final movement of the mass. 


Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis,

Deus Pater omnipotens.

Domine fili unigenite 

Jesu Christe [altissime].

Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, 

Filius Patris,

O Lord God, heavenly King, 

God the Father almighty.

O Lord, the only begotten son, 

Jesus Christ [most high].

O Lord God, Lamb of God, 

Son of the Father,

For the first half of this movement, which is for soprano and tenor duet, accompanied by flutes, muted strings, and continuo with pizzicato cello, Bach sets the first two lines of the text in the tenor, and the second two lines in the soprano occurring simultaneously, although melodically they are highly imitative. Whilst this music is very much in the style which was popular in Dresden, Bach takes a rather cheeky liberty with the text here. In order to inflate the Lutheran doctrine, which places the mortal figure of Christ, ascended to God, as its centre point, he inserts the adjective altissime (most high) at the end of the second sentence. I can find no other Latin mass setting (from Palestrina though to Stravinsky) where this occurs. After an instrumental section, the final two lines of the text are sung simultaneously by both voices. Again, parallel thirds and sixths are a feature of this closing section and this replaces the imitation completely, and the lilting, rocking thirds are entirely consistent with Bach’s efforts to write in the Galant style. The movement leads without a break into the next. 

qui tollis peccata mundi,  

miserere nobis.

Qui tollis peccata mundi, 

suscipe deprecationem nostram.

that takest away the sins of the world,

have mercy upon us.

Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.

This movement, lento doloroso (slow and sad) in character, is for four part choir and, whilst the choral parts are relatively static, they are accompanied by much faster moving imitative music for the flutes, high above the vocal parts. Persistent harmonic suspensions between the vocal parts, at close pitch proximity and across bar lines, and therefore over strong beats, help to bring out the meaning of the text. The music is parodied from the opening movement of Cantata 46, written in 1723 when Bach was first in Leipzig.