II. Symbolum Nicenum


Credo in unum Deum,

I believe in one God,

The music for this movement, which is fugal and for SSATB chorus, is taken directly from the Gregorian chant for the creed and Bach quotes this absolutely in the opening phrase for each of the voices. The voices are given centre stage here and accompanied only by upper strings and the continuo, which has a perpetually moving walking bass figure. The tenors begin the movement, followed by basses, altos and finally the sopranos. As previously mentioned, symbolism is at work here, with the word Credo, being set precisely 43 times. Bach clearly wants to make this statement of belief as strong and as clear as possible.

Patrem omnipotentem,

Factorem cœli et terræ,

Visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and Earth,

And of all things visible and invisible.

Bach repeats the text of the opening movement here, combining it with the text of lines 2 – 4 of the Credo.  Having allowed the voices to make the opening statement, using the traditional and recognisable Gregorian intonation, we now have what feels like the proper opening to the Symbolum Nicenum, with a full orchestral texture and a more concertato style of chorus. The choir is reduced to SATB and, at the start, the textual and melodic interest is given to the basses, with the upper parts providing a fanfare like commentary before the full contrapuntal texture emerges. The music for this movement is parodied from Cantata 171 of 1729.

Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,

Filium Dei unigenitum,

et ex Patre natum ante omnia sæcula.

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,

Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri:

per quem omnia facta sunt.

Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de cœlis.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, 

the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds God of God, Light of Light, 

very God of very God, begotten, 

not made, being of one substance with the Father: by whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven.

This lengthy duet for soprano and counter-tenor is accompanied by violins which are doubled by oboes at times. There is a separate viola part and continuo. The vocal parts are highly imitative, and Bach deals with each of the lines of text in turn, separating them with short instrumental passages and then not returning to them again.

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto

ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.

And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

This movement, for chorus, has the characteristics of a sarabande; a slow, melancholic dance in triple time and in a minor key. The SSATB chorus are accompanied by a persistent falling motif in the violins, which is structured in couplets, starts midway through the first beat of every bar and suggests sighing. The bass line is throbbing and resigned, and features repeated notes in almost every bar. This is a device much favoured by Vivaldi. The first three notes of each vocal entry diminish the overall interval between them; the altos, who are first, span an octave with their first four notes, the second sopranos, who are next, a minor seventh and finally the first sopranos, who describe the supremely expressive diminished seventh. This is an idea which Bach uses in the Art of Fugue, which was written during the same period.