Crucifixus: Bach's Mass in B minor

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  • Created by: Katherine
  • Created on: 30-04-14 14:35

Context within work

  • From the Creed section of the mass
  • About Christ being crucified and buried.
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Text and Text Setting

  • He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.
  • In a minor key throughout, until last few bars. G minor.
  • The nature of the chromatic, descending, ground bass sets the mood of the whole chorus.
  • The melodic lines, eg, the first vocal entries, reflect the overall mood. They descend conjunctly in their own parts, but also each part comes in - in a descending fashion.
  • Tessitura of text at the very end is very low, as is about Christ being buried.
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Melody and Rhythm

  • Vocal melody at the start uses short, descending phrases.
  • Falling descending figure.
  • Second melodic idea (A) uses chromatic intervals, bar 13. G to A# - in soprano - augmented 2nd, awkward rising interval. Repeated intervals in altos.
  • 2nd time the alto has: 'etiampronobis': long phrases for the altos. Overlapping Ground bass, goes against typical use of it - not in typical 4 bar phrases.
  • Writing is very chromatic which conveys the mood.
  • Awkward shapes in soprano part, for example: bar 37.
  • Irregular phrases which overlap.
  • Long phrases apart from the beginning.
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Tonality and Harmony

  • E minor
  • Ground bass descends chromatically - results in some chromatic chords.
  • Harmonises the bass line differently on sme occassions.
  • Bar 2: uses a diminished 7th.
  • When soprano first comes in, it's a suspension.
  • In the 1st vocal entry (sopranos), there is a 7-6 suspension, gives poignancy to the harmony. Example: bar 7: alto: a 4-3 suspension.
  • Bach sometimes alters the harmonisation of his bass, for ex: when he chooses to uses an E major chord rather than an E minor, the tonic chord.
  • In bar 24, moves from B major (major chord V), expected to unexpected minor chord.
  • False Relations: Bars 25-26, between sopranos and bass. G natural to G#.
  • G major in last few bars, foreshadowing the resurrection. Changes direction of ground bass to change key: uses an augmented 6th chord on syllable 'se' - resolves out.
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  • Melody and Accompaniment: in instrumental, chordal and homophonic.
  • Imitation in vocal entries, sequential movement. In imitation, the intervals don't have to be exactly the same - the overall shape is what matters.
  • Imitative and contrapuntal texture in 'A'. (bar 13).
  • Bar 29: homophonic passage.
  • Figure D: still imitative texture, tenors and basses are inverted versions of sopranos and alris. Same shapes but in contrary motion.
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Writing for instruments and relationships between

  • Flutes, play tear drop figures.
  • String chords.
  • Strong bass repeated.
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  • Structured through repetitions of ground bass, heard 13 times.(like the number of Jesus' disciples).
  • Bars 1-4: ground bass instrumental introduction.
  • Bar 5: vocal melody comes in.
  • Bars 9-12: repeating ideas with alterations in voice.
  • Bar 13: longer phrases, vocal phrases overlap with ground bass figure.
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Compositional Devices

  • Ground bass
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How is this movement a product of its time?

  • Audience would've recognised descending chromatic ground bass - popular for the time and for lamenting feel of the time.
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