Just celebrated Easter. Resurrection (et resurrexit tertia die). He rose on the third day. It is part of Credo in the mass and probably the most celebrated Christian Holiday next to Christmas. Our church celebrated with 4 services with brass, choir and the Hallelujah chorus, of course. We ran out of chairs with so many people in the congregation.
Bach finds resurrection celebratory and composes one of the most exhilarating movements in the B minor. But, it is not the central movement in his Credo. What is? The Crucifixion.
Here is the structure for the Credo in the B minor.
Movement #1; Credo (chorus with cantus firmus)
Movement #2: Patrem omnipotentem (chorus)
Movement #3: et in unum (duet aria)
Movement #4: et incarnatus est (chorus)
Movement #5: Crucifixus (chorus)
Movement #6: et resurrexit (chorus)
Movement #7: et in Spiritum Sanctum (solo aria)
Movement #8: Confiteor (chorus with cantus firmus)
Movement #9: et Expecto (chorus)
As one can see, the entire Credo is framed by two outer choral movements with each starting with cantus firmus(fixed Gregorian Chant melody). Then, he adds an aria on both ends: a duet and a solo. Movements #4-6 are the middle movements with the Crucifixus (#5) as the most central piece in the 9-movement structure. It is also in passacaglia form with repeated pattern in the bass-line.
Crucifixion: Jesus came down from Heaven to become a human being, crucified, and the resurrected. It seems pretty obvious, at least to me, that Bach considers the Crucifixion as the most important event in Christian theology.
What is the message? Christianity.. Is it about the crucifixion? The Suffering? We don’t seem to celebrate(?) that part of Christian calendar as much as we celebrate the Birth and the Ressurection.
Bach delivers the message again through the structure in his Credo. The Cross starts with “et incarnatus est” (God became a human being). In that particular movement, he chooses to put Cross Motiv in the string section with descending vocal lines implying the the incarnation. God came down to take the cross…
Easter is a wonderful holiday. Spring is in the air. A new beginning. People come home to celebrate with the family. My own children look forward to the Easter egg hunt although we missed one this year.
Yet, Bach reminds us: without “Crucifixus”, there would be no “et Resurrexit tertia die”..
God came down in humility, fully aware of the Cross..
Crucifixus.. Et Resurrexit tertia die.