Friday, June 5, 2009

The Quality of Mercy

By Drew

We seem to be on a classical music bent this week, so let's continue with the first and third movements of the Kyrie from Bach's Mass in B Minor. As was the case with the Verdi Requiem, the Bach Mass is not meant for liturgical use. Nonetheless, this represents one of the most profound of readings of the phrase, "Lord, have mercy."

The first movement, lasting nearly ten minutes, contains the "shock and awe" of the Last Judgment; one can almost imagine the appearance of the Archangel Michael, towering before us.

The second movement, containing the phrase, "Christ, have mercy," has always been - to me - a secondary part of the three-movement Kyrie; hence, we won't be dealing with it here. It does, however, with its female chorus, introduce the angelic concept that we see fulfilled in the patented Bach fugue that comprises this third movement, lasting a little less than four minutes. There is a sinister, dark tone in the deep male chorus, lightened by the hope contained by the female voices. Which, come to think of it, neatly bookends the pleading, yet confident, voice with which we utter the phrase. The orchestra is the Munich Bach Orchestra, conducted by Karl Richter.

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