Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,

et vitam venturi sæculi. Amen.


We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The third large chorus with full orchestra concludes the Symbolum Nicenum, although the music begins without a break from the previous movement in a very understated way. The bass line, initially, is a combination of the Et incarnatus and the Crucifixus, with much steady repetition, yet a sense of descending chromatically. This paints the first line of the text when, suddenly, the music erupts and the text is repeated in a much more brilliant and electrifying way. The trumpets and timpani strike up and the tempo increases. It is as if there has been a sudden realisation, a kind of “dropping of the penny”, as to what the words actually mean to a Christian believer.  The music, built largely on rising fourths, is a reworking of music written for an earlier cantata BWV 120.

III. Sanctus


Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, 

Dominus Deus sabaoth.

Holy, holy, holy, 

Lord God of hosts.

The symbolism in this movement is very difficult to overlook. For the first time a six part chorus is used, with divided altos and sopranos. The voices are often grouped in threes, with the upper voices singing antiphonally against the lower three voices. Triplets abound throughout the texture, and the ascending passages, particularly in the upper voices, bring to mind ‘shimmering’ choirs of angels on high. (This becomes completely natural when you consider that the spoken words of the Ordinary which introduce the Sanctus liturgically are as follows: Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and singing…) Donald Tovey likens the passages of ascending triplets to the swinging of censors and rising clouds of incense -  a perfectly understandable analogy. Bach gives importance also to the basses who have a prominent phrase which comes several times, and which is based on descending octave leaps. For the first time in the work three oboes are required. This movement leads directly into the next movement which is in fast triple time.

Pleni sunt cœli et terra Gloria Eius (Tua),

Heaven and Earth are full of 

His (Thy) glory,

Again Bach takes a liberty with the text by altering the final word in this movement, the better to fit with Lutheran ideology. The original word Tua (Thy) is changed to Eius (His); in other words the text is no longer addressing God and praising him directly, but referring in a more reportative way of God’s glory. This chorus is fugal, and, yet again, it is the tenors who are given the subject at the beginning. The orchestration builds up from nothing at the beginning except the continuo to the full orchestra with trumpets and timpani.



* English Translations from the Book of Common Prayer, 1549, Thomas Cranmer.

Programme notes and commentary by Peter Parfitt