’s Mass In B Minor Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, in every field, there have been several families who stand out for their achievements. In music, few families can compete with the success or the productivity that the Bachs can proudly claim. ?The Bach family represents the most f
midable example of a musical dynasty.1? The musical output of this family is remarkable. ?There were musician Bachs in the sixteenth century: the last of the line died in 1846. In between, there was no generation without a musician. They were all re
ted: and even using quite strict criteria, seventy-five of them made their living, or part of it, by practicing music.2? Besides the musical nature of the family, another noteworthy fact is that the Bach family remained in a specific area of Germany fo
many generations. ?The family of which Johann Sebastian Bach was a descendant was purely and thoroughly German, and can be traced to its home in Thuringia even before the time of the Reformation.3? This geographic stability was probably one of the fac
rs that contributed to the common interest in music that existed from generation to generation. Also, the composers in the family showed a strong sense of patriotism and dedication to the progression of German ideas and beliefs in the development of th
r musical styles. ?For generations they had at once festered and represented those forms of music which appeal most nearly to the transcendental and metaphysical spirit of the German people, and which were destined to be brought by them to the highest
rfection – namely, instrumental music and Protestant sacred music, which chiefly grows out of instrumental music.4? The Bachs played an important role in several developments of instrumental music, including the role of the trumpet. In the music of th
later Bachs, especially Johann Sebastian, the trumpet evolved into an important melodic character, which employed a similar range to that of the soprano. ?In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, a trumpet was any one of many variegated win
instruments with several common characteristics.5? The principle use of the trumpet was for military fanfares, and anything outside this genre was a rare exception. During the Baroque period, with the help of composers such as Sebastian Bach, the trum
t grew in importance as new and inventive styles began to flourish. Thus, Johann Sebastian Bach, along with many other members of his family played an integral role in building a German musical tradition, and they also greatly assisted the progress mad
in the employment of the trumpet in all genres of music. Sebastian Bach?s Mass in B Minor is a fine example of both the culmination of German style and the establishment of the trumpet as an important member of the orchestra.
He was born at Eisenach on 21 March, 1685, son of Johann Ambrosius, court trumpeter and director of the town musicians; who, in turn, was son of Cristoph, town musician at Arnstadt in the mid-seventeenth century. Sebastian was the youngest of Ambrosiu
s eight children, only four of whom did not die at a very early age. On May 3, 1694, when Sebastian was only nine, his mother died. Less than seven months later, on November 27, his father remarried. Slightly more than two months after the marriage,
s father also passed away. Sebastian and his older brother Jacob were sent to live with another brother Johann Cristoph, who was in his twenties and held an organist?s job in Ohrduf. It was from Cristoph that Sebastian received his first keyboard less
s. As his brother?s family grew, Sebastian was forced to make his own way. He moved to Lunenburg, where he continued his education and began paying his tuition by singing in the choir. He was only fifteen. From this point on, for the rest of his lif
Sebastian would earn his living as a musician. On October 17, 1707, he married his cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. They had seven children, but she died in 1720. In December of 1721, he married his second wife, Anna Magdalena Wilcken, who was, interest
gly, the daughter of a trumpeter. They had thirteen children of their own, which brought the total number of Sebastian?s offspring to twenty, but only ten would reach maturity. In pursuit of his musical ambitions, he moved numerous times, but most of
s life was spent in the towns of Arnstadt, Muhlhausen, Cothen, and he eventually settled in Leipzig in 1723. He was named cantor of the city. It was in Leipzig that he composed his greatest sacred works, including the Mass in B Minor. He died from a
rebral hemorrhage on July 28, 1750.
Bach?s Mass in B Minor is a monumental work from the baroque period, and it is a culmination of the musical growth and experience of the composer. His ?High Mass? was not composed in one period, but was written in sections, beginning in 1724, and he w
ked on the piece until the last year of his life. The Sanctus was the first section of the mass that Bach composed, but it was not originally intended to be used as a part of the mass. ?An early autograph score of the Sanctus and its performing parts,
hich were written at different times and on different paper, attest to the fact that the Sanctus was performed as early as Christmas Day 1724, again in 1726 or 1727, and once more towards the end of Bach?s life.6? Even though the Sanctus is not the fir
section of the mass in performance order, it was the first section that Bach composed. In 1733, he composed the Missa, which was comprised of the Kyrie and the Gloria. ?Kyrie and Gloria were the two parts of the Missa, written in 1733, which eventual
formed the first section of the Mass in B Minor.7? Still though, Bach had not joined the two sections together, and he had not yet composed the other sections that make up a complete mass. The Missa and the Sanctus still existed as two completely sep
ate pieces. It was not until the 1740s that Bach began to add to the Missa and complete the mass cycle. It was during this last decade of his life that he added the Sanctus, Credo, Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Dona nobis pacem to the Kyrie and G
ria.8 Bach had now completed a traditional mass setting for his Mass in B Minor. ?This was accomplished by means of an extraordinary mixture of newly-composed material with existing music which Bach revised for its new role. What is even more remarka
e is that he did it for no discernible practical purpose.9? From a contemporary viewpoint, it would seem that a work of this magnitude, completed in the twilight of the life of one of the greatest composers in history would be greatly anticipated and p
formed as often as possible. ?The Sanctus is, however, the only part of the B Minor Mass that has a provable performance history in Bach?s lifetime.10? There were several reasons that this occurred. One problem in performing the piece would have been
e difficulty of the parts, both for the choir, and the orchestra. The difficulty of the piece would have greatly limited the number of groups that could give a quality performance of the work. Since it was a mass, it seems that the obvious outlet for
s performance would be in the church. However, it could not even be considered for use in the Protestant church, because the Protestants had moved away from many of the Roman rites. ?On the other hand, Bach?s Mass was also unusable in the Catholic rit
now only on account of its departure from the prescriptive Latin text, but also, and in particular, because of the liturgically impermissible layout of the closing sections. All this is quite apart from the work?s gigantic dimensions, which burst all
turgical bounds, Catholic or Protestant.11? Even though the circumstances involved in the prevention of the immediate performance of the work seem tragic, it does make a strong statement about Bach?s character and conviction. Bach was under no pressur
rom anyone to complete the mass, but he felt it was his duty. ?There was, after all no, deadline: in this task the only obligation Bach acknowledged was his personal responsibility to his creator, to tradition, and to posterity.12? This level of comm
ent and determination is quite remarkable. Bach has been quoted as saying ?Anyone who works as hard as I did, will get as far.13? This modesty and devotion helped Bach secure his place in history.
Some scholars have argued that the sections of what we know as the Mass in B Minor were not intended to be performed together. However, Bach himself bound the four sections together, in the order they would occupy in a regular setting of the mass. Ev
though a complete performance was not feasible while he was alive, he clearly felt that the sections belonged together. The piece is now called the Mass in B Minor, but most of the piece is written in the key of D major, the relative major of B minor.
Bach used a cantata mass style that had previously been employed by Neapolitan composers. Each large section is broken into several movements. Bach used the ?perfect? numbers of the trinity in this practice. The Kyrie is broken into three movements,
d the Gloria broken into nine. Although Bach adopted most of this mass from his previously existing body of work, he adjusted and reworked it so that everything flowed together. The Symbolum Nicenum, or Credo, was a symbol of the cross, and it was com
ised of nine movements, arranged symmetrically. The Crucifixion is the fifth movement, so it occurs exactly in the middle of this section. Five is also the number of wounds Christ suffered upon the cross. Many examples of tone painting are also emplo
d in the work, especially in the movement announcing the Crucifixion. The burial of Christ is displayed through the descending chromatic melodies into the instruments? softest, lowest registers (Example A). Also, everyone but the voices and continuo d
p out in the final four and a half measures of the movement. This depiction of Christ?s burial is immediately followed by the Resurrection, which begins in D major, with the trumpets and drums pronouncing the glorious occasion that Christ has risen fro
the grave. The piece begins with ascending figures to help set the proper mood (Example B). In brief, Bach used a great deal of symbolism to help unify the piece, and to strengthen the relation of the music to the text.14
Sebastian Bach used the trumpet in many of his pieces in such a way that excerpts from his music are among the most difficult in the repertoire to this day. It is appropriate to discuss the trumpet prior to Bach, so that one can appreciate the leaps t
t Bach made in his writing for the instrument. In the periods before the Baroque era, the trumpet was restricted almost entirely to use in the military. Werner Menke states that ?Up to the sixteenth century, where we must begin our closer examination,
he use of the trumpet had been limited to the sphere of warfare and festive occasions.15? The trumpet was not used as a melodic instrument, or even as a rhythmic accompaniment, but it was a viewed as a signal instrument. ?The tone of these signal inst
ents is described to us by the writers of classical antiquity as very unbeautiful, harsh, and barbarous.16? Before the Baroque period, trumpeters did not even really view themselves as musicians who were working to perfect an art. They did however tak
reat pride in their playing, but they placed themselves apart from other musicians of the time. ?The field trumpeters (i.e., military trumpeters) and kettle drummers classed with them did not form a guild, owing to their knightly character and the circ
stance that their calling was considered not a trade but a free, knightly art.17? Perhaps this opinion caused a longer separation between the trumpet and the orchestra than was necessary, but the trumpet did not possess the versatility to play much mor
han octaves and fifths, and these were terribly out of tune and horribly inconsistent, until the trumpet makers of the seventeenth century began to make great progress with the craftsmanship of the instruments. Along with this increased skill in the bu
ding of the trumpet, came a greater skill in playing it. By manipulation of the embouchure (lips), trumpeters were now able to play many more notes than before. Also, the players discovered that the higher they played on the instrument, the closer the
vertones became to one another pitch control became much more practical. In the upper register, trumpeters could even play limited chromatic passages. This opened a door for composers to utilize the brilliance and power of a brass instrument in the sa
range as a soprano, and if used properly, it could add an entire dimension to a piece of music. Baroque composers wasted little time in adopting the trumpet as a functional member of their orchestras.
During the Baroque period, the trumpet was still a coiled tube with no valves. All changes in pitch were accomplished by the manipulation of the embouchure and air stream. These instruments were much more difficult to play accurately than the modern
umpet, which has valves, and is crooked a great deal more. It was during the Baroque period that music written for the trumpet began to resemble the styles and techniques we associate with the modern trumpet. Many Baroque composers wrote trumpet parts
ith incredibly demanding technique and range. It is hard to say whether there were virtuoso trumpeters before the music called for them, or if musicians rose to the task of performing the newly written works. Either way, the Baroque period was a bloss
ing age for the trumpet. Arguably the most difficult compositions for trumpet from this period were written by Sebastian Bach. In Leipzig, Bach was immensely fortunate in having one of the best players of the seventeenth century, Johann Gottfried Reic
, as his principal trumpeter. ?It was for the famous Johann Gottfried Reiche…. that Bach presumably wrote the difficult and remarkable prima tromba parts so often required in his church concertos and oratorios.18? Bach made good use of his astoundin
rumpet player, and he composed many works which required exceptional trumpet playing. One major example is the Brandenburg Concerto no. 2. ?But with the Brandenburg Concertos, the skills demanded in pitch, dynamics, and technique from the baroque trum
t rise to an unprecedented degree.19 To this day, it stands out as one of the hardest trumpet parts ever written (Example C). The piece demands incredible range, technique, and endurance. For an effective performance, even the most difficult passages
st be played with ease and grace. Thanks largely to Bach, the trumpet moved from its role as a field instrument, which occasionally played in the towns for various festivals, to its place as an impressive member of the orchestra. Also of note is the f
t that the trumpet is written as the top line of the score in the orchestral works of Bach, which indicates an emphasis Bach placed on the trumpet. As a testament to the importance of Bach?s music for trumpet, currently, in every major orchestral audit
n, the trumpet player is required to play at least one work by Bach. The long-lived importance of this music is the strongest argument for its significance.
Perhaps not as technically difficult, but equally as important was the trumpet part Bach composed for his Mass in B Minor. Some of the most glorious moments in all of music occur in this piece, as the trumpet resounds in Bach?s tribute to God. The fi
t entrance of the trumpet occurs at the beginning of the Gloria. When the trumpet makes an entrance in this piece, the mood is significantly brightened. There are three trumpet parts, written in D. The trumpet is used in the Gloria to emphasize impor
nt moments in the string and voice parts. The trumpet part can also be used as an example of Bach?s use of word painting. As the five voices pronounce the the words ?Gloria in excelsis,? the trumpet soars to a sounding high D (Example D). The trum
t is also used to articulate and emphasize the transitions between sections. In almost every movement where the trumpet has a part, time signature changes are anticipated by a descending line and trill in the trumpet. Thus, the first trumpet leads the
ntire orchestra and choir into the next section (Example E). The structure and form of the movements is clarified by the movement of the trumpet line. The larger sections of the piece are brought to their conclusions in definite fashion by the finalit
expressed in the movement of the trumpet part. Even though the music for the trumpet in the Missa section of the mass is important and impressive, Bach saved his most outstanding trumpet parts for the later movements.
One of the most impressive sections of the mass, as far as the trumpet is concerned, is the Credo. The first trumpet enters during the Patrem omnipotem and carries a descant line for almost twenty measures. It finishes with an ascending line up to hi
E. The part is completely exposed, and any error in the line would be highly noticeable (Example F). After playing this part, the trumpet is allowed several bars to rest, before reentering the piece, along with the second and third trumpets, to finis
the movement. The next time the trumpet plays is immediately following the Crucifixus. The resurrection of Christ (Et resurrexit) is begun with the full orchestra and chorus. Bach uses the brilliant sound of the three trumpets to complement his portr
al of the glory and joy felt as the story of Christ?s rise from the grave unfolds. Another important example of symbolism Bach employs through his use of the trumpet occurs in the Sanctus. The trinity is displayed in more than one way. Not only are t
re three trumpet parts, but the first and second trumpets open the first movement of this section with triplet figures (Example G). The first movement of the Sanctus is titled Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, another reference to three. Also, the second mov
ent, Pleni sunt coeli, is set in three eight time. During this movement, the range and technique of the principal trumpeter are again tested. By this point in the mass, endurance begins to become a factor. It takes a very strong player to successfull
perform the mass through the end of the Sanctus, but the trumpet part is far from complete. Immediately following the taxing Pleni sunt coeli, the trumpets must again play at the beginning of the Osanna. As the Osanna nears its conclusion, the first t
mpet is again required to ascend to a high E before bringing the movement to a close. Bach then allows the trumpeters to rest for a short period. It is common practice for the Benedictus to be performed, then for the Osanna to be repeated, further tax
g the trumpet players. The Agnus Dei is the next to last movement of the mass, and the trumpets are allowed another brief rest, before the arrival of the Dona nobis pacem, which demands another showing of range and technique from the first trumpeter.
this monumental piece nears its conclusion, the trumpet ascends in half notes to a high D, then descends as the piece ends (Example H). As the trumpet sustains the high D, and the other lines continue to move under it, the magnificence of Bach?s great
ork is completely apparent.
In conclusion, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach represents one ofthe finest pieces in German music, and his Mass in B Minor is a wonderful example of his work and also his progressive uses of the trumpet. ?The Mass in B Minor appears to be the summa
not only of Bach?s sacred music, but of all of his music.20? Even though the people of Bach?s own time were never given the privilege of hearing his full mass setting, countless people since have experienced the joy of hearing this majestic piece. It
hard to believe that a man would work so hard, and commit such a sizable portion of his life to a project that would bring him no praise or acclamation during his life. Sebastian Bach was fully aware that his piece would not be performed in its intend
setting for many years to come, but these facts did not deter the composer from what he felt was a mission for God, and for the generations to come. ?So as he grew older, the B-Minor Mass must have seemed to him to be a bequest to his successors and t
the future.21? This selfless dedication to a cause is one of the many reasons that Johann Sebastian Bach remains one of the most well known and respected names in all of Music. The Bach family line of musicians culminated in Johann Sebastian Bach, and
carried the honor to astonishing heights. Few others in the history of music have made as monumental a contribution as his, and fortunately, people for many years to come will be able to experience the timeless masterpieces of this great man.
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