Missa (Bach)

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  • 233
  • 234
  • 235
  • 236
Short masses by J.S. Bach
Zamek v Lyse nad Labem.jpg
Lysa castle, possibly the location of performances of BWV 233 to 236
Translation Short mass
Related most movements derived from cantata movements
Composed 1738 (1738)? – Leipzig
Text Kyrie and Gloria
Scoring soloists, choir and orchestra

A Missa (Mass) of Johann Sebastian Bach is in general a composition of the Latin Mass by the German Baroque composer.

More specifically, Missa (or Missa brevis or Lutheran Mass) refers to one of his four short masses in F major, A major, G minor and G major, BWV 233 to 236. These masses consist of a Kyrie and a Gloria. An especially extensive setting, the Missa – which Bach composed in 1733 for presentation to the royal court in Dresden – became, in the last years of his life and in revised form, the first two sections of his only setting of the complete ordinary of the Mass, known today as the Mass in B minor, BWV 232.

Bach's church music in Latin[edit]

Bach was a Lutheran church musician and devoted to the composition of sacred music in German. He wrote more than 200 cantatas for the liturgy, most of them in Leipzig. He composed several settings of the Sanctus: one in 1723 in C major (BWV 237), one in 1723 in D major (BWV 238), one in 1724 in D major, and another in D minor (BWV 239); the 1724 Sanctus was in Bach's last few years integrated into his Mass in B minor. Bach composed a setting of the Magnificat in 1723, and then significantly revised it in 1733. For a Christmas service sometime in the mid-1740s (between 1743 and 1746) Bach used four movements of the Gloria from the 1733 Missa for the cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191.[1]

Bach's short masses[edit]

Bach wrote four other settings of Kyrie and Gloria, sometimes called Missa brevis (plural: Missae breves). The attribute brevis in this case means short in words, unlike the Missa brevis of the classical period which is short in duration. Sometimes the works are termed Lutheran mass, because the combination of only Kyrie and Gloria was used more frequently in the Lutheran liturgy.

They seem to have been intended for liturgical use, considering a performance time of about 20 minutes each, the average duration of a Bach cantata. They may have been composed around 1738/39.[2] Possibly they were written for Count Franz Anton von Sporck or performed by him in Lysá.[3]

Each Missa is in six movements, the Kyrie one choral movement in three sections, the Gloria in five movements. The first and last movement of the Gloria are also choral, framing three arias for different voice types. The music consists mostly of parodies of cantata movements.[4] He changed the music slightly to adjust to the Latin words, but kept the original instrumentation. The opening chorus of Es wartet alles auf dich, BWV 187, became the final movement of the Missa in G minor, Cum sancto spiritu. Occasionally he switched a voice part, for example he asked for a tenor in the Quoniam of that Missa, a parody of the soprano aria Halt ich nur fest an ihm of that cantata.

The four masses are

Missa in F major[edit]

Movement Title for from (or remark)
  1 Kyrie eleison – Christe eleison – Kyrie eleison Chorus earlier version: BWV 233a
  2 Gloria in excelsis Chorus
  3 Domine Deus bass perhaps BWV Anh18[6]
  4 Qui tollis soprano BWV 102
  5 Quoniam alto BWV 102
  6 Cum sancto Spiritu Chorus BWV 40

Missa in A major[edit]

Movement Title for from (or remark)
  1 Kyrie eleison – Christe eleison – Kyrie eleison Chorus
  2 Gloria in excelsis Chorus BWV 67/6
  3 Domine Deus bass
  4 Qui tollis soprano BWV 179/5
  5 Quoniam alto BWV 79
  6 Cum sancto Spiritu Chorus Vivace part: BWV 136 (Opening chorus)

Missa in G minor[edit]

Movement Title for from (or remark)
  1 Kyrie eleison – Christe eleison – Kyrie eleison Chorus BWV 102
  2 Gloria in excelsis Chorus BWV 72
  3 Gratias bass BWV 187/4
  4 Domine Fili alto BWV 187/3
  5 Qui tollisQuoniam tenor BWV 187/5
  6 Cum sancto Spiritu Chorus BWV 187

Missa in G major[edit]

Movement Title for from (or remark)
  1 Kyrie eleison – Christe eleison – Kyrie eleison Chorus BWV 179
  2 Gloria in excelsis Chorus BWV 79
  3 Gratias bass BWV 138
  4 Domine Deus soprano, alto BWV 79
  5 Quoniam tenor BWV 179
  6 Cum sancto Spritu Chorus BWV 17

Recordings of all Missae breves[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Williams, J.S. Bach: A Life in Music, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 259, ISBN=978-0-521-87074-0}
  2. ^ Christoph Wolff: Johann Sebastian Bach, 2nd edition 2007. S. Fischer, Frankfurt, ISBN 978-3-596-16739-5
  3. ^ "Count Frantisek Antonin von Sporck". baroquemusic.org. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Margaret Steinitz. "Bach's Latin Church Music". London Bach Society. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233–242 on bach-cantatas.com
  6. ^ Wolfgang Schmieder, Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der Werke Johann Sebastian Bachs, Wiesbaden 1969
  7. ^ "Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 Recordings - Part 1". bach-cantatas.com. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 

External links[edit]