Placing the Et incarnatus and Crucifixus in Context: Bach and The Panorama of the Baroque Mass Tradition

Jasmin Melissa Cameron

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution


This paper aims to relate J. S. Bach’s settings of the 'Et incarnatus' and 'Crucifixus' from the Credo of the Mass in B Minor to the longstanding traditions that existed at this time in connection with these sections of the Mass.

While the Crucifixus and its relationship to Weinen Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen BWV 12 has been discussed extensively, it has never been placed in context of the broader Crucifixus tradition that was in existence at this time. These conventions are already evident in Mass settings from the late Rennaisance (as in Palestrina) and early Baroque (as in Monteverdi). In the late Baroque composers such as Vivaldi, Caldara, Lotti and Zelenka continued to set the Crucifixus in a recognisably similar way, drawing on a range of established traditions. These topoi ranged from symbolic depiction to narrative illustration and on occasion included musical devices that provided an appropriate overall background to these settings. I will examine Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, and the Crucifixus, showing how, in the process of adapting his model, Bach acknowledges the time honoured traditions of setting the Crucifixus text.

I will also relate the preceding movement to existing musical conventions. The Et incarnatus was another section of text which, like the Crucifixus, clearly held appeal for many composers. By comparing Bach’s application of two ‘sets’ of established topoi, it will be possible to further strengthen the argument that Bach was indeed aware of accepted traditions of setting the Mass. This same evidence will also support the broader theories of existence of Et incarnatus and Crucifixus topoi, that is traditions which were received and transmitted by a long line of composers, including J. S. Bach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Symposium: Understanding Bach's B-Minor Mass
Subtitle of host publicationDiscussion Book: Volume 1
EditorsYo Tomita
Place of PublicationBelfast
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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