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Bach Sanctus from the B Minor Mass

This week I listened to Bach's Sanctus from the B Minor Mass, conducted by Pia Praetorius. Before listening to this piece, I did some research on the piece and the performers to set the scene. The performers were apparently from a German speaking country, and nearly all of the information I could find was in German, which wasn't very helpful. The most interesting thing I found about the piece was that this was apart of one of the last compositions that Bach completed before his death. Bearing this in mind, while drinking tea, sitting in my desk chair the night before a snow day, I gave Bach my undivided attention. The first thing I noticed about the piece was the ostensible use of the crescendo and the decrescendo when the choir sings sanctus, which translates to holy. The Baroque period is known for the extensive use of terraced dynamics, and crescendos and decrescendos were not recurrent, or perhaps not even existent. This piece did however exhibit many of the endearing qualities of the Baroque period. The piece was intended to praise the lord, and does so with its overwhelming feeling of grandiosity. It begins with a trade off between the tutee and choir, harping on the word sanctus. The texture is polyphonic with different melodies produced within the choir and often contrasted but sometimes complimented by the orchestra. Halfway through, the texture changes dramatically by attenuating the sound down to just one voice accompanied by a harpsichord. The lone voice is then accompanied by another voice, and then shortly after by then rest of the choir and the orchestra again. At this point in the song, the lyrics change from just the word sanctus to Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt

caeli et terra gloria ejus, which translates to Lord God of the Sabbaoth! Heaven and earth are full of thy majesty. The focus leaves the instruments and concentrates on the words. The piece had a joyous sounding harmony even though it was set in B minor. The full bodied sound was projected by a choir and a small orchestra. The orchestra was composed of violins, violas, cellos, and a double bass. The were also some percussion instruments that were struck at the start of the word sanctus to proliferate the emphasis on the word. I think the piece had a through composed form. The first stanza was repeated many times in the beginning but was never revisited. The piece had a slightly different feeling towards the end and never seemed to repeat the beginning. The melody of the piece consisted of long phrases with legato notes. The rhythm was very regular, set in a tempo that seemed to range between andante and allegro. The second half of the piece had a faster tempo than the first half of the piece. Overall the music had a positive sounding vibe for being in a minor key. The piece definitely sounded appropriate for mass, but I couldn't imagine listening to the full 2 hours of it (according to, the average duration of the full performance is 135 minutes). I thought it was interesting, and I enjoyed listening to it the first time. I listened to it five or six times the whole way through to try to make accurate judgments, but I got very tired of listening to it after only hearing it once. This was a very different experience than what I had with Vivaldi. I could listen to Vivaldi all day, but I could enjoy this piece for a few minutes.