The first movement serves as a Prelude to the Double Fugue of the second movement. It begins with arabesque appregios in the woodwind punctuated with several chords of E minor. The strings enter and pass the theme to the altos.
The choir sings Exaudi orationem meam Domine on two adjacent notes, resembling a fervent prayer. The woodwind accompanies with an ostinato bass in 4-note cells, consisting of the pair of rising minor thirds, B-D A-C#.
The motif with which the woodwind accompanies the vocal line is the basis for the later movements; we find it in the first subject of the Fugue and in the thematic design of the last movement.
The altos' minor second theme takes turns with the full chorus to bring the music, with staccato woodwind and brass accompaniment, to the climax with Ne sileas. The transitions are marked by the E minor chord that accompanied the opening.
Further development of the minor second figure brings the theme to the tenors and then to the trebles, after which there is a climax with the modulation into a major key.
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