Sanctus in D major

Sanctus in D major

BWV 238 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos


Contrary to popular belief, Luther argued for multilingualism in the church

“I am not at all in sympathy with those who cling to one language and despise all others”, wrote Martin Luther in the introduction to his Deutsche Messe, and “for in no way do I want to banish the Latin tongue entirely from the Service”. Although German usually springs to mind when we think of Bach and Luther, in reality things were more multilingual. Particularly in university cities like Leipzig, Latin remained important in the church. The hymn book by Gottfried Vopelius that was used in Leipzig is full of Latin texts. It contains three versions of the Sanctus: two Gregorian melodies and a six-part setting for major feast days.

Bach himself also had a series of festive Sanctus settings for such occasions; partly his own compositions and partly those of others. The unusual thing about the Sanctus, BWV 238, is that there are only two independent instrumental parts: the bass part and the first violins. The other instruments double the four-part choir. So the whole work is six-part, just like Vopelius’ Sanctus. This is probably due to the biblical source of the Sanctus, as the book of Isaiah tells of seraphim with ‘six wings’ who sing the Sanctus to one another.

Besides Latin and German, Luther would have liked even more variation: “if the Greek and Hebrew tongues were as familiar to us as Latin, […] we should hold mass on successive Sundays in all four languages, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.”. The Sanctus itself takes the initiative, beginning with the words “Sanctus dominus Deus sabaoth...”. The last word (meaning “army” or large group”) comes via the Greek Σαβαώθ from the Hebrew צבאות. Luther himself left it at Zebaoth. The more multilingual, the better, he may have thought.

Sanctus (in D major)
Latin church music
Mass text
Christmas 1723
First performance
25 December 1723
Special notes
probably performed during Bach's first Christmas in Leipzig during the morning service, along with cantata BWV 63

Extra videos

Violinist Shunske Sato

“Many composers go towards simplicity when it comes to express happiness. Not Bach.”

Vocal texts


Sanctus Dominus
Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra
gloria eius.


Holy Lord,
God of hosts.
Heaven and earth
are full of your glory.


  • Release date
    30 November 2018
  • Recording date
    11 February 2018
  • Location
    Walloon Church, Amsterdam
  • Conductor
    Jos van Veldhoven
  • Soprano
    Maria Keohane
  • Alto
    Tim Mead
  • Tenor
    Daniel Johannsen
  • Bass
    Matthew Brook
  • Ripieno soprano
    Hilde Van Ruymbeke, Marjon Strijk
  • Ripieno alto
    Barnabás Hegyi, Marleene Goldstein
  • Ripieno tenor
    Kevin Skelton, Guy Cutting
  • Ripieno bas
    Drew Santini, Matthew Baker
  • Violin 1
    Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Pieter Affourtit
  • Violin 2
    Sayuri Yamagata, Lidewij van der Voort, Paulien Kostense
  • Viola
    Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
  • Cello
    Richte van der Meer, Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Oboe
    Martin Stadler
  • Bassoon
    Benny Aghassi
  • Organ
    Leo van Doeselaar
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Merijn Vrieling, Ivo Palmen, Martin Struijf, Bjorn Tiebout
  • Director of photography
    Merijn Vrieling
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot, Henry Rodgers, Patrick Galvin
  • Assistant director
    Ferenc Soeteman
  • Video engineer
    Vincent Nugteren
  • Set technique
    Dennis van Hoek
  • Data handling
    Jesper Blok
  • Project manager nep
    Peter Ribbens
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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