FL 2 3001

J.S. Bach: Motets

Album information

A motet is a sacred choral composition in two or more parts. Originally, motets were settings of Latin texts which were not part of the official liturgy. In Germany during Bach’s time, composers turned to Biblical verse or to chorale and hymn texts for their motets. Their use was confined to the beginning of Sunday morning services or to Sunday afternoon Vespers. Bach’s motets, however, were commissioned for special events.

Four of the six motets were composed in the 1720s for the funeral services of some of Leipzig’s leading citizens. (Some of these motets were performed at the burial, while others were sung at memorial services.) It would seem that the first motet (BWV 225) was premiered during Duke Frederick Augustus I’s 1727 visit to Leipzig. The sixth motet (BWV 230) is thought to have been part of a now-lost cantata. Four of the motets are for double choir (BWV 225, 226, 228 and 229). The third (BWV 227) is scored for five voices, while the sixth motet (BWV 230) is in four parts.

For many years, these motets were sung a capella, that is, without instrumental accompaniment. Certain manuscripts and iconographic sources, however, point to evidence that these sacred works were indeed performed with accompaniment.

The Chœur classique de Montréal has chosen to perform the Motets with organ (positive) accompaniment. They are performed in an order which differs from the sequence of their BWV numbers.

© Danielle Charbonneau, Marie Charest, Maurice Lacoste
Translation: Patricia Abbott

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