Holy Saturday

Saturday 30 March 2024

Holy Saturday or Sabbatum Sanctum

30 March 2024 – Today is Holy Saturday or Sabbatum Sanctum, also called "Silent Saturday" because the church bells will not toll until Easter. I was unable to find any specific information on church services during Bach's time, but I suspect that there was probably no music allowed in mass (Tempus Clausum).

However, this is an official day on the liturgic calendar, so I'm eager to fill the slot with some of Bach's magnificent music. I've chosen works where at least the orchestra remains silent: the wonderful Motets BWV 225 to BWV 230, here in a great recording by Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent.

A lot is not known about these Motets, but BWV 228 appears to have been written in Weimar, and the others in Leipzig between 1723 and 1728. They are probably written for funerals, so they are appropriate for this Silent Saturday. They are also the only vocal works by Bach that stayed in the repertoire after Bach's death up until the Bach revival in the 19th century. They were also among the first music by Bach ever to be printed.

Music for today

  • Motets, BWV 225-230
    (first performance 1723-1728?, Leipzig period)

Extra information

The Netherlands Bach Society website has more information and a performance of BWV 226: