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B.B.C. Symphony Concert-XIX

Synopsis

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Relayed from THE QUEEN'S HALL, LONDON
(Sole Lessees, Messrs. Chappell and Co., Ltd.)
Bach's Mass in B Minor
THE B Minor Mass of .Bach is acknowledged to bo one of the greatest musical works in the world, but partly owing to the circumstances in which it came to bo written, and partly because of its unusual structure, it is unfitted for practical use as a Mass in churches.
In spite of the power of tho Reformed Church in Bach's day, there were still many, particularly among the ruling families, who remained loyal to the Catholic faith, and though Bach was employed by Protestant authorities and composed his music for Protestant services, his ruler and over-lord, the Duke of Saxony, was a Catholic. Therefore, when Bach chose on one occasion to seek a favour of the Duke, and to protest against petty-minded treatment by the Leipzig Councillors, he thought it as well to enclose a composition with his letter. 'I lay before your kingly Majesty this trifling proof of the science which I have been able to acquire in music,' ho writes as preface to his request, ' the trifling proof ' he refers to being the Kyrie and Gloria of the B Minor Mass.
The rest of the work was composed over a period of some years, and one infers it was written with neither the Protestant nor the Catholic church directly in mind. but from a devotional impulse that moved Bach to complete the music to the Latin of the Roman Mass. In any case, he departed from the usual custom of church composers by setting the words of the Mass with an earnest appreciation of their meaning, and it is this deeply devout attitude that, allied to Bach's genius, lifts the work on to a plane loftier than and different from all others of its kind.
A singular fact regarding the separate movements is that the music of many of them was written in the first place for other works, and was later adapted by Bach for use in the B Minor Mass. The Kyrie and Gloria, as being the movements offered to the Duke of Saxony, were naturally original compositions, but many of the later ones were taken from other works, mostly the Church Cantatas, and skilfully transferred to the Mass, the Latin words, which replaced the German words, fitting both the music and the meaning of the music so aptly as to stultify criticism. In the words of Dr. Sanford Terry, the great Bach scholar: Except in so far as it illuminates the ways of genius, it is of no aesthetic value to discover the proportion of original to borrowed material. The Mass is the design of a superb architect, perfect in proportion and balance.'

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Feedback about B.B.C. Symphony Concert-XIX, National Programme Daventry, 20.15, 6 April 1932
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