Bach Cantata No.191 Gloria

Much of Bach’s prodigious output consists of re-workings of previous compositions.

This is true of Cantata 191. It is described by Bach as a Christmas Cantata, and it is entirely a reworking of parts of the Gloria from his Mass in B minor. For the first movement he has used the chorus Gloria in excelsis – et in terra pax from the Mass unchanged, and the following duet is the Domine Deus from the Mass sung to the words ‘Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto’. The cantata concludes with the chorus Sicut erat in principio.The music for this is the chorus Cum sancto spiritu which concludes the Gloria in the Mass. The words Sicut erat don’t fit the original, so he has modified the beginning so that they do.

So we get a small insight into the way Bach worked. There are many more examples of reworkings to hand, since all the Mass in B minor apart from the Kyrie and the Gloria consists of reworkings of previous cantatas.

Bach in Luebeck

Bach famously walked the 250 miles from Arnstadt. He had been given 4 weeks leave from his post at the Arnstadt court; he stayed in Lübeck for 4 months. The year was 1705, the year of the death of Emperor Leopold I and the accession of Joseph I. Bach was probably present at the Extraordinary Abendmusike Buxtehude put on to mark these events.

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Leipzig Collegium Musicum

A Collegium Musicum was a music society.

With the burgeoning of bourgeois culture, particularly in prosperous and vibrant centres such as Leipzig, there began a slow shift away from music being made exclusively for The Court or The Church. Art music was becoming accessible to a much wider public. An example of this is the Music Hall in Dublin where Messiah received its first performance. Collegia musica were a vital part of this development.

Collegia musica brought musicians together to make music, and were often purely amateur in status. In Hamburg, Georg Philipp Telemann set up a collegium musicum in his own home.  It was Telemann who founded the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, in 1702 (when he was also associated with St. Thomas’s for a time). This became the focal point for professional musicians, and it was an organisation of real standing within the city, informal and voluntary institution though it was. Bach’s becoming director of the Collegium does not seem to have brought him any financial rewards, but it did greatly widen his scope, compared to the restrictions placed on him by his ‘day-job’ at the Thomasschule.

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Telemann 1681-1721

Georg Philip Telemann

was born in Magdeburg. Like his near contemporary Handel, his family actively discouraged him from making music and as a musician he was virtually self-taught.

G. F. Telemann

He was from a professional family, so he was sent to school; and it was at school his remarkable talent was recognised and he was given opportunities and support. From the age of 16 he made many visits to the courts of Hannover and Brunswick, and by this time he had learned to play the recorder, violin and keyboard instruments, plus the flute, oboe, chalumeau (an early form of the clarinet), viola da gamba, double bass and bass trombone. He would later add the cello to his list, but violin would be his 1st instrument.

Although when he was 20 he went to Leipzig to read Law, he quickly became embroiled in the music of the city, among other things getting commissions to write music for the two main churches. Four years later, after he had thoroughly made his mark in Leipzig , he was appointed Kapellmeister to Count Erdmann II of Promnitz in what is now Poland, and then went on to hold substantial posts in Eisenach and Frankfurt. But it was when he was 40 he landed a plum job in Hamburg where he remained (but for one hiccup) for his remaining 47 years.

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