Holy Saturday or Sabbatum Sanctum
8 April 2023 – 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.
- Motets, BWV 225-230
(first performance 1723-1728?, Leipzig period)
The Netherlands Bach Society website (in Dutch) has more information and a performance of BWV 226:
WBC27-Holy Saturday or Sabbatum Sanctum
Choose one of these streaming services to listen to this playlist:
Image of the day
The Harrowing of Hell by Andrea Mantegna, around 1470. An important part of Mediaval Easter traditions, the Harrowing of Hell describes the descent by Christ into Hell between his death and resurrection to release the innocent victims of the devil.