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Bach: Mass in B minor


  • Saturday April 8th 2023
  • Royal Chapel
  • 7pm | 1h50 without intermission
Homepage Bach: Mass in B minor 2023


Monteverdi Choir

English Baroque Soloists

John Eliot Gardiner Conductor



The origin of Bach’s famous Mass in B minor is not well known. It is said to have been completed in Leipzig around 1748, two years before the composer’s death, by assembling his Missa Brevis of 1733 (a Kyrie and a Gloria dedicated to the Elector of Saxony, and thus to the Court of Dresden – a Catholic city – with a brilliant musical life) with various pieces already written, notably the Sanctus dated Christmas 1724, but also with new compositions, to form what his son Carl Philipp Emanuel called the “Grand Catholic Mass”. It is somehow a theoretical work, whose destination was not dictated for a specific performance: Bach achieved here his magnum opus, a culmination of sacred music after fifty years dedicated to cantatas and passions…

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Only published in 1833, the complete work was certainly not performed during Bach’s lifetime, but in the 19th century it became a symbol of compositional mastery, and with the Baroque revival an essential work of the German Baroque and of universal music, placed on the same level as his St Matthew Passion.


In Bach’s oeuvre, this great “Latin” mass contrasts with its splendour to the Protestant passions. The heady sorrow of the Crucifixus, in which each voice weeps for Christ, is followed by the intoxicating Resurrexit, with all the brass and timpani playing, carried away by the joyful clamour of the faithful. Bach’s musical testament is now one of his most performed works.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

Mass in B minor, BWV 232

The Royal Chapel of the Château de Versailles

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