Gloria in excelsis Deo

Gloria in excelsis Deo

BWV 191 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Grote Kerk, Naarden

  • Menu
  • 1. Gloria in excelsis Deo (Coro)
  • 2. Gloria Patri et Filio (duetto)
  • 3. Sicut erat in principio (Coro)

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Extremely flexible

Bach did not shy away from reusing his own notes, and did so in a variety of ways

Leipzig was lucky. This festive gloria was actually part of a short mass that Bach presented as a gift to the Elector of Dresden. So the music was not intended for Leipzig and was not supposed to be performed there. A pity, and maybe Bach thought so too. We do not know precisely why and when he rewrote the gloria from the mass as a cantata. It is remarkable that Bach chose to use a Latin text for his Leipzig arrangement as well, as Latin church music was not common in Leipzig, even on Christmas day. But evidently an occasion presented itself, and Leipzig could thus enjoy Christmas music in regal style. The piece is written for five parts, as was usual in Dresden. The instrumentation is also regal – a variety of colours have been added to the orchestra: oboes, flutes and bassoon, as well as trumpets and timpani.

It is interesting to see how creatively Bach deals with his own composition here. The words and the music of the first movement are almost exactly the same as those of the mass. So it fits like a glove. The dancing angels’ singing is heavenly, and we come peacefully down to earth in the ‘Et in terra pax’.

In the duet for tenor and soprano, although he did copy his own notes, Bach set new words to them. Rather than the ‘Domine Deus’ that follows in the gloria of a mass, we hear ‘Gloria Patri’ – the beginning of the doxology; a formula with which psalms are rounded off. He scrapped the second part of the duet.

Bach had much more rigorous work to do in the third movement, replacing the original ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris, amen’ with ‘Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in secula seculorum, amen’. As this had too many syllables, Bach added an extra six bars of music. He also gave the flutes a much more independent part, as well as making other changes to the instrumentation.

Unintentionally, Bach thus gave a sort of demonstration of how flexibly he could deal with his own scores. He did not shy away from reusing his own notes. Sometimes this might have gained him time – as in the first movement here – but the third movement might even have cost him more energy in rewriting the existing music to fit the new words.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Latin church music
ca. 1743-46
Luke 2:14 and short doxology
Christmas day
First performance
unknown, possibly on 25 December 1745
Special notes
The music of all three movements originates from the Kyrie and Gloria in B minor, BWV 232a, which Bach was later to expand to a complete Mass in B minor, the ‘Hohe Messe’. This composition may have been prompted by the peace treaty between Saxony and Prussia, which was celebrated on Christmas day 1745 by a special service in St Paul’s Church at the university.

Extra videos

Conductor Jos van Veldhoven

“All the music in this cantata is based on the Mass in B minor; Bach's Hohe Messe.”

Vocal texts


1. Coro
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Post orationem

2. Duetto (Soprano, Tenore)
Gloria Patri et Filio
et Spiritui sancto.

3. Coro
Sicut erat in principio
et nunc et semper
et in saecula saeculorum, amen


1. Choir
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace on earth to men of good will.

After the sermon

2. Duet  
Glory to the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit.

3. Choir
As it was in the beginning
and now and always
and in the age of ages, amen.


  • Release date
    9 December 2016
  • Recording date
    17 December 2015
  • Location
    Grote Kerk, Naarden
  • Conductor
    Jos van Veldhoven
  • Soprano i
    Maria Keohane
  • Soprano ii
    Michaela Riener
  • Alto
    Alex Potter
  • Tenor
    Charles Daniels
  • Bass
    Matthias Winckhler
  • Ripieno soprano i
    Lucie Chartin, Marijke van der Harst
  • Ripieno soprano ii
    Marie Heeschen
  • Ripieno alto
    Elsbeth Gerritsen
  • Ripieno tenor
    Yves van Handenhove, Immo Schröder
  • Ripieno bas
    Michiel Meijer, Jelle Draijer
  • Violin 1
    Shunske Sato, Annelies van der Vegt, Anneke van Haaften, Lidewij van der Voort
  • Violin 2
    Sayuri Yamagata, Anneke van Haaften, Paulien Kostense
  • Viola
    Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
  • Violone
    Robert Franenberg
  • Traverso 1
    Frank Theuns
  • Traverso 2
    Doretthe Janssens
  • Oboe 1
    Martin Stadler
  • Oboe 2
    Peter Frankenberg
  • Trumpet 1
    Robert Vanryne
  • Trumpet 2
    Stephen Keavy
  • Trumpet 3
    Mark Geelen
  • Timpani
    Luuk Nagtegaal
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Organ
    Pieter-Jan Belder
  • Director
    Joost Honselaar
  • Assistant director
    Ferenc Soeteman
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Jochem Timmerman, Rene Holbrugge, Martin Struif, Chris Reichgelt
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Lighting assistant
    Patrick Galvin
  • Video engineer
    Justin Mus
  • Set technique
    Glenn van den Eerden
  • Datahandling
    Charlotte Storm
  • Projectmanager NEP
    Peter Ribbens
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Producer concert
    Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Acknowledgements
    Angela Mast

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