J.S. Bach: Kyrie II from B Minor Mass (BWV 232, #3)

Uploaded on Aug 8, 2016

The grave second Kyrie from the B Minor Mass – a four-voice choral fugue doubled by instruments with intermittently independent continuo bass.

Noteworthy for its severity of aspect, this 59-measure plea for mercy is poised in BWV 232 between the upbeat “Christe, eleison” duetto and the exultant Gloria. The unusual chromatic subject features a flattened second exited as a diminished third to the leading tone, creating a Neapolitan sixth on the very second note of the movement. Comprising two and half long 4/2 measures, it is so constructed to accompany itself as a canon at the fifth (or fourth below) at a half-measure (whole-note, “arsin et thesin”) remove – see the stretti beginning in m. 35-36 (alto/tenor) and 40-41 (soprano/bass). As with the gargantuan first Kyrie (https://musescore.com/user/1831606/scores/811691), study of the various basses which underlay the subject (when it is not actually the bass!) teaches much.

Other than for the stretti mentioned above, the fugue is notable for relative paucity of inversions and other fugal devices upon the subject, and of full expositions, and consequent profusion of lengthy episodes. The flat second of the subject does engender notable chromaticism, supporting the imprecatory message of the movement.

The continuo realization (here for MuseScore “Pipe Organ”, as I sometimes opt for weighty choruses) is, as usual, my own. (There seem to be some errors in the Bachgesellschaft (BGA) figuring, which I have marked with question marks or parentheses in the figures). There are hidden oboes, flutes, and bassoon, which tightly coupled -colla-parte- (as per the score) to the visible strings.

Bach B Minor Mass chorus counterpoint Kyrie fugue

Pages 17
Duration 03:59
Measures 59
Key signature 3 sharps
Parts 13
Part names Flute, English Horn, Bassoon, Strings(5), Voice(4), Organ
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License Public domain
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