J. S. Bach: Agnus Dei (Mass in B minor)
In my mind, J. S. Bach is the greatest composer who ever lived. I know that he never wrote an opera, but my first musical love was choral music, and by extension, sacred music. Even removed from the specific religious context it was written for, there is something sacred and timeless about his music. I said in one of my earlier posts that Strauss’s “Morgen!” captures timelessness the best of any art song. I think the same can be said for much of Bach’s music, except on a much larger scale. This Agnus Dei is excerpted from the famous Mass in B Minor, although it was originally written earlier for a different work. The Mass in B Minor is sort of a “greatest hits” album of all Bach’s best pieces, compiled by the genius himself. I was lucky enough to get to perform the whole work a few years ago, and this piece stuck out to me. It comes at the very end of the work, about 90 minutes in, and stops everyone in their tracks. The simple continuo paired with the haunting melody (sung beautifully by Andreas Scholl here) brings me to tears every time I listen. There is something essential and eternal about Bach’s music, the feeling that no matter what is happening in the world or how much time passes, it will be relevant and transformative. I highly recommend taking the time and listening to the entire mass. I’ve listened through a few times since quarantine began, and each time new pieces stick out to me, and each time I feel much more centered and whole than when I began. Thanks for the beautiful music, Bach.