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Credo in unum deum : situating Bach's B-minor Mass within a Dresden context Bevaart, Joanna Marie


The purpose of Bach’s completion of his B-minor Mass has, to date, not been fully understood. Although the work was first presented to the Saxon elector as a Kyrie-Gloria missa in 1733, the fact that Bach, a staunch Lutheran, included the remaining movements of the mass Ordinary to comprise a full “Catholic” mass in 1748/49 is most intriguing. Many plausible and valid viewpoints have been hypothesized, mainly from the perspective of Bach’s own musical tendencies, interests, and circumstances. My research, however, addresses this problem from a wider, contextual point of view, seeking to find answers through contemporary mass writing at the Dresden court. Dresden’s importance is clear given its early connections to the mass, and the fact that Bach cultivated significant ties to the city for the remaining years of his life. Since the Credo movement was Bach’s last addition to complete the full mass, and is laden with structural complexity, prominent compositional choices, and interesting theological implications, it will be the focus of this study. To do so, I will explore a selection of extant Dresden Credo movements written within the few decades prior to Bach’s own Credo. The late addition of Bach’s Credo movement would have allowed him ample time to familiarize himself with these earlier, parallel versions, making the Credo movement an excellent choice for determining a possible Dresden influence. By uncovering the degree to which the Dresden Credo compositions share these musical traits with Bach’s, his purpose for writing the full mass can be better understood. To further validate these musical findings, I will also address the cultural and musical context of the city of Dresden, the mass genre more generally, and Bach’s own connections to the city. I will show how, despite Bach’s personal preoccupation with theological meaning and the stile antico, his awareness of the Dresden masses and a possible practical intention for his mass is revealed in his own Credo movement.

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