In a colloquium at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, January 2009, Mike Diprose, Balthasar Streiff and Anselm Hartinger offered a solution to the enigma of O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht BWV 118: What did JS Bach mean when he wrote "lituus"?
Why the wooden lituus?
by Mike Diprose
Many mysteries surround JS Bachs Trauermotet, O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, (BWV 118). Only composition scores of both versions are extant - the first version with a watermark from 1736/37; the second circa 1740. Neither autograph scores nor parts survive. Both versions specify lituus I & lituus II.
Maybe its no so simple for this piece: BWV 118 is a Trauermotet funeral music. The cornetto and trombones also specified in the first version had a strong symbolic association with mourning, whereas trumpets and horns represent noble celebration - very inappropriate at a funeral and also, because of and Edict* restricting their use, illegal at the time (there are no trumpet or horn parts in Bachs Passions, for instance). Baroque horn and trumpet parts tend to be in short, dramatic bursts. The lituus parts in BWV 118 are unique in character, with long, lyrical phrases that, when played on horns or trumpets, dont really blend in ensemble as well as they could.