All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Mass in B minor

BWV 232 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Grote Kerk, Naarden

Conductor Jos van Veldhoven and many musicians about the Mass in B minor, "the best of Bach".

Bach's testament

Bach’s Mass in B minor could be regarded as one big Concerto Grosso.

Sublime, extreme and all-embracing… only superlatives will do to describe Bach’s Mass in B minor. In between an awe-inspiring Kyrie and the jubilant final Dona nobis pacem, there are nine completely unique arias and duets, fourteen impressive ensemble sections for four, five, six and even eight voices, a broad spectrum of instrumental solos, and an incredible variety of styles. Our admiration is justified: it was with good reason that in 1748-49 Bach brought together some of the highlights of his long career. The Mass even includes Bach’s very last pages of vocal music, the Et incarnatus est, right alongside the Crucifixus, a clever arrangement from one of his earliest cantatas, composed in 1714.

A magnum opus
There has been much speculation about the question of why Bach compiled a Mass at the end of his life. Nowadays, the Mass in B minor is generally regarded as the magnum opus of his vocal works; equivalent to other big projects by Bach like Die Kunst der Fuge and the Clavier-Übungen series. Bach may have opted for the Ordinary of the Mass because it gave him a lot of freedom. There is a great deal of text and it is not dictated which movements should be sung by the chorus and which should be arias. Neither are there any rules about the number of movements. Furthermore, the words of the Mass – unlike those of the cantatas – are universal rather than being a product of their time.

The Mass of 1733
The length of the Mass in B minor precludes it being sung in its entirety in a church service. Yet this does not mean that Bach could never have heard his creation performed live. It is just that it was performed in parts over the years. Most researchers now believe that Bach compiled his Mass largely of existing music, coming predominantly from the cantatas of course. The initiative for the complete Mass dates from July 1733, when Bach presented the parts for a Mass in B minor to King August III in Dresden. It was the start of a series of five ‘Lutheran’ Masses, comprising only the Kyrie and the Gloria, which all originated in the 1730’s. Whereas Bach’s text did differ somewhat from the Roman Catholic liturgy, such a restricted setting of the Mass was quite common at the Catholic court of Dresden. Moreover, the form was extremely well suited to the custom in Dresden (rather than that in Leipzig); namely a Mass in separate movements, as in the Neapolitan style of Zelenka. For the performance, Bach could call on the world-famous court orchestra, which included stars like the violinist Pisendel, the flautists Buffardin and Quantz, and the oboist Richter, who were each given a nice solo (respectively Laudamus te, Domine Deus and Qui sedes). The effect must have been magnificent. The great variety of styles is also remarkable. For example, a true Baroque opera duet, Christe eleison, is followed by the second Kyrie in strong counterpoint.

Perfect proportions
Bach only compiled the last five movements of the Mass when he notated the whole work in a score in 1748-49. The architecture of the Credo is striking. At the last moment, Bach very deliberately changed his initial format by separating the Et incarnatus est from the duet Et in unum Dominum, thus producing nine movements. In the new format, the core elements of the faith, i.e. the birth of Jesus as man, his death and his propitious ascension, each get their own central part in the Credo. Incidentally, Bach sets the expecto fragment of text to music twice: first dark and tormented at the end of the Confiteor, as if the corpse is lying waiting in his coffin for what is to come, and then jubilantly when the resurrection is a fact. Bach also borrowed from himself for the three Sanctus movements. He reused a Sanctus from 1724 (in extra festive Lutheran services, this text was sung separately, without the Osanna and the Benedictus), the opening of the cantata Preise dein Glücke from 1730 for the Osanna, and an unknown original for the aria Benedictus in the very fashionable ‘empfindsame’ style of the day, as if Bach wanted to say that he was still very much up to date.

About the performance
Jos van Veldhoven’s idea for this performance was to try and make as little distinction as possible between the singers and the instrumentalists. After all, Bach often reused instrumental music in his vocal works. He also tried to forget the ‘classical’ chorus set-up and to put himself in the impressive and rich tradition of which Bach was part. The result is a ‘new’ Mass in B minor: a Mass like one big concerto grosso with many different components. In addition, Jos van Veldhoven was guided by the texture of the score, also with regard to the orchestra line-up.


Mass in B minor

Latin church music (mass)



Ordinary of the Latin Mass


First performance
not performed in its entirety during Bach’s life

Special notes
Bach used a previously written composition for nearly every movement

Cast & Crew

release date 9 June 2017
recording date 15 December 2016
Location Grote Kerk, Naarden
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
soprano 1 Hana Blažíková
soprano 2 Anna Reinhold
alto David Erler
tenor Thomas Hobbs
bass Peter Harvey
ripieno soprano 1 Marjon Strijk, Lucie Chartin
ripieno soprano 2 Hilde Van Ruymbeke, Lauren Armishaw
ripieno alto Barnabás Hegyi, Elsbeth Gerritsen
ripieno tenor Yves van Handenhove, João Moreira
ripieno bass Matthew Baker, Drew Santini
VIOLIN 1 Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Annelies van der Vegt
VIOLIN 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Pieter Affourtit, Paulien Kostense
VIOLA Staas Swierstra, Yoshiko Morita
cello Lucia Swarts, Barbara Kernig
DOUBLE BASS Robert Franenberg
timpani Peppie Wiersma
traverso Marten Root, Doretthe Janssens
OBOE Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg, Yongcheon Shun
trUmpet Robert Vanryne, Fruzsina Hara, Mark Geelen
BASSOON Benny Aghassi, Tomasz Wesolowski
horn Teunis van der Zwart
positive organ Pieter-Jan Belder
Director Simon Aarden
Assistant Director Ferenc Soeteman
MUSIC RECORDING Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
MUSIC EDIT AND MIX Guido Tichelman
CAMERA Jochem Timmerman, Bart ten Harkel, Martin Struijf, Merijn Vrieling
GAFFER Zen Bloot, Henry Rodgers
Set technician Justin Mutsaers
FILM EDITOR Pjotr 's-Gravesande
data handling Jesper Blok
Project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
concert Production Imke Deters, Marco Meijdam
producer Jessie Verbrugh
Documentary Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Angela Mast, Marlo Reeders

Vocal Texts



1. Coro

Kyrie eleison.

2. Duetto (soprano I&II)

Christe eleison.

3. Coro

Kyrie eleison.

4. Coro

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus
bonae voluntatis.

5. Aria (soprano II)

Laudamus te, benedicimus te,
adoramus te, glorificamus te.

6. Coro

Gratias agimus tibi
propter magnam gloriam tuam.

7. Duetto (soprano I & tenor)

Domine Deus, rex coelestis,
Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite,
Jesu Christe, altissime.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei,
Filius Patris.

8. Coro

Qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi,
suscipe deprecationem nostram.

9. Aria (alto)

Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
miserere nobis.

10. Aria (bass)

Quoniam tu solus sanctus,
tu solus Dominus,
tu solus altissimus,
Jesu Christe.

11. Coro

Cum Sancto Spiritu
in gloria Dei Patris.


12. Coro

Credo in unum Deum.

13. Coro

Credo in unum Deum.
Patrem omnipotentem,
factorem caeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

14. Duetto (soprano I & alto)

Et in unum Dominum
Jesum Christum,
Filium Dei unigenitum.
Et ex Patre natum
ante omnia saecula.
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 caelis.

15. Coro

Et incarnatus est
de Spiritu Sancto
ex Maria virgine
et homo factus est.

16. Coro

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis,
sub Pontio Pilato
passus et sepultus est.

17. Coro

Et resurrexit tertia die
secundum scripturas.
Et ascendit in caelum,
sedet ad dexteram Patris.
Et iterum venturus est cum gloria
judicare vivos et mortuos,
cujus regni non erit finis.

18. Aria (bass)

Et in Spiritum Sanctum
Dominum et vivificantem,
qui ex Patre Filoque procedit.
Qui cum Patre et Filio simul
adoratur et conglorificatur,
qui locutus est per prophetas.
Et unam sanctam catholicam
et apostolicam ecclesiam.

19. Coro

Confiteor unum baptisma
in remissionem peccatorum.

20. Coro

Et expecto ressurectionem mortuorum,
et vitam venturi saeculi.


21. Coro

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,
Domine Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
gloria ejus.


22. Coro

Osanna in excelsis.

23 Aria (tenor)
Benedictus qui venit
in nomine Domini.

Osanna in excelsis.

24. Aria (alto)

Agnus Dei
qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.

25. Coro

Dona nobis pacem.


I. Missa

1. Chorus

Lord, have mercy

2. Duet

Christ, have mercy

3. Chorus

Lord, have mercy.

4. Chorus

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

5. Aria

We praise you, we bless you,
we worship you, we glorify you.

6. Chorus

We give you thanks
for your great glory,

7. Duet

Lord God, heavenly king,
God the Father almighty.
Lord, only begotten Son,
Jesus Christ, most high
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father.

8. Chorus

Who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Who takes away the sins of the world
receive our prayer.

9. Aria

Who sits at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.

10. Aria

Since you alone are holy,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are most high
Jesus Christ.

11. Chorus

With the Holy Spirit
in the glory of God the Father.


12. Chorus

I believe in one God.

13. Chorus

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth
and of all things visible and invisible.

14. Duet

And in one Lord
Jesus Christ,
the only­ begotten Son of God,
begotten of his 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.

15. Chorus

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

16. Chorus

And was crucified also for us
under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried.

17. Chorus

And on the third day he rose again
according to the scriptures.
And ascended into heaven.
And sits at the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory,
to judge both the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.

18. Aria

And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the Lord and Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified,
who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe in one Catholic
and Apostolic Church.

19. Chorus

I acknowledge one Baptism
for the remission of sins.

20. Chorus

And I await the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.


21. Chorus 

Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth
are full of your glory.


22. Chorus

Hosanna in the highest.

23. Aria

Blessed be he that comes
in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest

24. Aria

Lamb of God,
who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

24. Chorus

Give us peace.


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