All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Gloria in excelsis Deo

BWV 191 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Grote Kerk, Naarden

"All the music in this cantata is based on the Mass in B minor; Bach's Hohe Messe."

Extremely flexible

Bach did not shy away from reusing his own notes, and did so in a variety of ways.

Leipzig was lucky. This festive gloria was actually part of a short mass that Bach presented as a gift to the Elector of Dresden. So the music was not intended for Leipzig and was not supposed to be performed there. A pity, and maybe Bach thought so too. We do not know precisely why and when he rewrote the gloria from the mass as a cantata. It is remarkable that Bach chose to use a Latin text for his Leipzig arrangement as well, as Latin church music was not common in Leipzig, even on Christmas day. But evidently an occasion presented itself, and Leipzig could thus enjoy Christmas music in regal style. The piece is written for five parts, as was usual in Dresden. The instrumentation is also regal – a variety of colours have been added to the orchestra: oboes, flutes and bassoon, as well as trumpets and timpani.

It is interesting to see how creatively Bach deals with his own composition here. The words and the music of the first movement are almost exactly the same as those of the mass. So it fits like a glove. The dancing angels’ singing is heavenly, and we come peacefully down to earth in the ‘Et in terra pax’.

In the duet for tenor and soprano, although he did copy his own notes, Bach set new words to them. Rather than the ‘Domine Deus’ that follows in the gloria of a mass, we hear ‘Gloria Patri’ – the beginning of the doxology; a formula with which psalms are rounded off. He scrapped the second part of the duet.

Bach had much more rigorous work to do in the third movement, replacing the original ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris, amen’ with ‘Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in secula seculorum, amen’. As this had too many syllables, Bach added an extra six bars of music. He also gave the flutes a much more independent part, as well as making other changes to the instrumentation.

Unintentionally, Bach thus gave a sort of demonstration of how flexibly he could deal with his own scores. He did not shy away from reusing his own notes. Sometimes this might have gained him time – as in the first movement here – but the third movement might even have cost him more energy in rewriting the existing music to fit the new words.


Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Latin church music

ca. 1743-46


Luke 2:14 and short doxology

Christmas day

First Performance
unknown, possibly on 25 December 1745

Special notes
The music of all three movements originates from the Kyrie and Gloria in B minor, BWV 232a, which Bach was later to expand to a complete Mass in B minor, the ‘Hohe Messe’. This composition may have been prompted by the peace treaty between Saxony and Prussia, which was celebrated on Christmas day 1745 by a special service in St Paul’s Church at the university.

Cast & Crew

Release date 9 December 2016
Recording date 17 December 2015
location Grote Kerk, Naarden
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
Soprano I Maria Keohane
Soprano II Michaela Riener
Alto Alex Potter
Tenor Charles Daniels
Bass Matthias Winckhler
Ripieno soprano I Lucie Chartin, Marijke van der Harst
Ripieno soprano II Marie Heeschen
Ripieno alto Elsbeth Gerritsen
Ripieno tenor Yves van Handenhove, Immo Schröder
Ripieno bas Michiel Meijer, Jelle Draijer
Violin 1 Shunske Sato, Annelies van der Vegt, Anneke van Haaften, Lidewij van der Voort
Violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Anneke van Haaften, Paulien Kostense
Viola Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
Cello Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
Violone Robert Franenberg
Traverso 1 Frank Theuns
Traverso 2 Doretthe Janssens
Oboe 1 Martin Stadler
Oboe 2 Peter Frankenberg
Trumpet 1 Robert Vanryne
Trumpet 2 Stephen Keavy
Trumpet 3 Mark Geelen
timpani Luuk Nagtegaal
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
organ Pieter-Jan Belder
Director Joost Honselaar
Assistant director Ferenc Soeteman
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Jochem Timmerman, Rene Holbrugge, Martin Struif, Chris Reichgelt
Lights Zen Bloot
Lighting assistant Patrick Galvin
Video engineer Justin Mus
Set technique Glenn van den Eerden
Datahandling Charlotte Storm
Projectmanager NEP Peter Ribbens
Producer Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters

Vocal Texts


1. Coro

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Post orationem

2. Duetto (Soprano, Tenore)

Gloria Patri et Filio
et Spiritui sancto.

3. Coro

Sicut erat in principio
et nunc et semper
et in saecula saeculorum, amen


1. Choir

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace on earth to men of good will.

After the sermon

2. Duet  

Glory to the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit.

3. Choir

As it was in the beginning
and now and always
and in the age of ages, amen.


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