Note Bach’s use of a most simple, childlike tune – an old French street song that recalls “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” Listen to excerpt 1 – “Come ye daughters.”, St. Matthew Passion is an oratorio, which is a musical drama. Rather, the composer restricts himself to creating a drama whose full force comes to expression through the musical delivery. No one but the individual concertgoer can answer that question, but in the interest of piquing the interest of those to whom Bach’s “Great Passion” is a foreign, inaccessible enigma, here are a few thoughts. In 2020 the whole world seemed to be waiting for the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Wolff, Christoph. Gordon, David. We might think of them as sober, earnest hymns, but some were originally street tunes. “Programmatic Notes to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion” (1999) Some of what they sing is reflective, as the piece that addresses the evil of Judas’ betrayal; other pieces consist of a soliloquy in which the singer pours out his or her heart, the best-known example being the aria, “Have mercy on me, O Lord.” In numbers like this one, Bach puts the spotlight on our own condition, and forces us to deal with the words on a personal level. For until we are willing to open ourselves to the suffering that took place at Gethsemane and on Golgotha, it cannot work its redemptive powers in us. Returning to the idea of a cast: there are also commentators. (This is because most religious music was performed in churches. Typically, these are done with all performers in street clothes or neutral costumes, the orchestras on stage, the soloists singing without scores, and the words acted out in a solemn fashion, with only a minimal stage set. It’s not just a regional phenomenon. Look at any big city newspaper around Easter, and you’re sure to find a performance advertised somewhere. It is almost miraculous that the complete renaissance of Bach’s music which took place after 1829 was due to the performance of a work that had been quite forgotten yet is regarded today as one of his most complex and profound creations of Western music. Bach, written in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by picander. Each of these performances sold out quickly, despite tickets ranging from $30 to $80 apiece. It’s a melody originally written by one Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612). The St Matthew Passion is the second of two Passion settings by Bach that have survived in their entirety, the first being the St John Passion, first performed in 1724. In Bach’s time, St Thomas’s had two organ lofts – the larger of the two accommodating the musicians for Sunday services throughout the year, the smaller loft used for the additional numbers needed for the music at Christmas and Easter. Written in 1727, the St. Matthew Passion represents a large-scale intersection of composition and Lutheran theology. Bach's St. Matthew Passion: A Rudimentary Psychological Analysis, Part II by Vladimir J. Konecni University of California, San Diego Arousal-raising devices: Psychophysical and collative variables Paradoxical as it may seem, it is generally considered that Bach was able to achieve great variety through his ingenious counterpoint. Gardiner, John Eliot. Bach completed his St. Matthew Passion in time for Good Friday, 1727 (he revised it later, at least once). In short, you don’t need to understand it to be moved by it. What is the Bruderhof? Johann Sebastian Bach is widely regarded the greatest musical genius of all time. David Gordon notes, “Only at the moment of Christ’s death does this halo fall away, and Jesus utters his poignant final ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ accompanied by the basso continuo alone.”. Warner Classics: 7777630585. Only a dozen or so of his works were published in his lifetime.). Isoyama, Tadashi. Every note is performed in … In the second, which follows the crowd’s shouts of “Let him be crucified!” the crucifixion has become a concrete reality. Like the Jewish cabbalists, and like Christians down the centuries who have highlighted the significance of numbers in everything from seven-armed candelabras to the triune God and the twelve gates of the Holy City (or the twelve disciples), Bach was interested in numerology – that is, mathematical symbolism. “The St. Matthew Passion” – notes for Minnesota Public Radio, (2001) One can only imagine what St. Augustine, who agonized over the seductive dangers of chant, would make of it. Discourses on historically accurate performing standards and instrumentation. Until 1975, it was held that the first performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion was on Good Friday 1729. A local Lutheran preacher, Salomon Deyling, supervised the writing of the text, using the 26th and 27th chapters of St Matthew’s Gospel (in his manuscript, Bach underlined the words of the Scripture with red ink). It is unclear exactly how many Passion settings Bach wrote: perhaps but not likely five, possibly three or four. Rather, the composer restricts himself to creating a drama whose full force comes to expression through the musical delivery. The story here is as follows: Caiaphas consults with leaders to kill Jesus. (“Soli Deo Gloria,” which means “to God alone be glory”), I.N.J. These events were so well attended that you had to come several hours early if you wanted a good seat. On the occasion of the centenary of the first performance of the St Matthew Passion in Aberdeen in 1912, Peter Parfitt, Musical Director of Aberdeen Bach Choir, has prepared a musical commentary on the work with the text (in German) and translation into English. Listen to excerpt 9 to hear the rippling motion. I keep trying to like “purist” performances including Gardner but I can’t mare up to them. Whereas Picander designates Choir I as “the Daughters of Zion” (Jesus’s contemporaries) he marks Choir II as “The Faithful” – us latter-day witnesses to his death. In 1723, the family moved to Leipzig, where Bach spent the rest of his life, mostly at St. Thomas, where he was cantor, though also at the city’s other big church, St. Nicholas. This tradition of borrowing music is still going strong; though whereas 300 years ago serious musicians were borrowing popular tunes, it’s now working the other way around: popular musicians are borrowing from classical tunes. Peter’s weeping, after his betrayal of Christ, is also vividly depicted by the vocal line Bach gives the soloist at that point in the story. It is said that silence is complicity. It moves the spirit toward self-reflection and the exercise of the conscience.”. The available information derives from extant early manuscripts, contemporary publications of the libretto, … I, II Notes at the Bach Museum in Leipzig contain complaints by his contemporaries suggesting that he was too easy on the pupils in his care, who, instead of doing their studies in the evening, ran wild through the streets. The last “actor,” of course, is Jesus himself. Scholars now agree that an early version was first heard two years earlier, a second version in 1729, a further revised version in 1736 and a final one – the one we hear today – in 1742. Instead, it works to give the oratorio coherence, the way a literary motif might in a novel. Just at this point, Bach interrupts the narrative to insert the chorale “’Tis I who am most guilty,” a stark reminder that the real responsibility for Christ’s betrayal is not Judas’s alone, but that each of us must bear our part. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Bach uses it no less than five times in the course of the St Matthew Passion, each time presenting it in a new way, with different words, keys and harmonisations (he also used it – twice – in the Christmas Oratorio and in several cantatas). Seen from a distance, the two ensembles, each visually dominated by a large number of singers, do indeed look equal. Bach’s first wife died in 1720, and he remarried the next year. No. Fania Records: How A New York Label Took Salsa To The World, Pride Of The Opry: Charley Pride Makes Musical And Cultural History, ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’: Bathing In Brian Eno’s Genius. These take two forms: there are eleven chorales which “step outside the action at significant spots and react to the story…They provide commentary and create a sense of a community response to the events just described by the soloists.” Then there are the four longer choruses that frame each half of the Passion, like bookends. To me, the most vivid tonal depiction comes in the alto aria “Have mercy,” which Alex Ross calls “the most beloved passage in the St. Matthew Passion.” Evoking Peter’s bitter weeping after his denial of Christ, the “keening melody” is interwoven with a “sad, serene, gently dancing violin solo… The singer tries to emulate the violin’s endless melody but keeps falling short, because parts of it lie outside her range. Some illustrations: In No. Schweitzer, Albert. “As Sir David points out… Bach might well have approved of making the “fullest use of the resources available to him”…The crowd choruses are vividly characterised, the chorales sung with unaffected naturalness.” – Gramophone. It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew (in Luther's German translation) to music, with chorales and arias. For example, he wrote melodies comprised of 14 notes, 14 being the sum of the letters of his name, with each letter representing a number (A = 1, B = 2, etc). In the early 1820s, the director of the Berlin Singakademie, Carl Zelter, got hold of a copy of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and rehearsed some of the choral movements in private. Your email address will not be published. It is this sort of device that makes the oratorio so heart-rending. Stream songs including "St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, Pt. . With respect to the chorales, their poetic lyrics are perhaps just as moving as their musical power. Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (2013) Indeed, his is a musical interpretation of the gospel of St. Matthew, and it makes for one of the great Matthew Passion recordings. The story was arranged by Christian Friedrich Henrici, a postal official in the city who wrote verses using the pseudonym of Picander. The St. Matthew's Passion (Matthäus-Passion), BWV 244 is a sacred oratorio by J.S. Like operas, though, oratorios do have casts. (‘Passion’ is derived from the Latin verb ‘patior’ meaning ‘to suffer’ or ‘endure’, from which we also get ‘patience’ and ‘patient’.) He was only twenty, and a recent convert to Christianity. In the same sequence, a flurry of chords dissipating in different directions illustrates Christ’s words about the scattering of his flock. Bach did not act as his own librettist for the St Matthew Passion. J.S. A smaller piece than the 1727 St. Matthew, Bach’s St. John Passion was first performed in 1724. “Bach’s St. Matthew Passion” (2001) A fine example of Bach’s use of repetition to make connections is noted by the scholar Christoph Wolff, who suggests that the use of the same melody for “O blessed Jesus,” the first chorale in the oratorio, and one of the last “O wondrous love” is intentional. Back to the composition of the music itself, Bach was also keenly aware that his talent was a gift. There’s a certain irony here: the missing phrase, of course, belongs to Judas, and highlights him as the only disciple impudent enough to ask the question. (For a peerless example of such chorale singing, listen to excerpts 5, 6, and 7.). Thus, the score is laid out for Chorus 1 and Orchestra 1, Chorus 2 and Orchestra 2. As with all great religious art, there is no need to explain or justify such an assertion: the piece has, in and of itself, sufficient power to touch the heart, awaken the imagination, and enliven faith. Matthew Passion,” for starters, and you’ll come up with a staggering number of matches. Levang, Rex. We are an intentional Christian community of more than 3,000 people living in twenty-eight settlements on four continents. Is it really just the music drawing people? He was, by now, working as a violinist, organist, and consultant to organ builders. The full title (from the cover of Bach’s fair copy) is Passio Domini Nostri J. C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum; that is, “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.” Of course, the word “passion” does not refer to “love” in this instance, but comes from passio – a participle of the Latin verb “to suffer.”, Bach sets out to make this suffering palpable in the first chorus by its mood: turbulence, anguish, minor chords, and then light breaking through with what Leonard Bernstein called the “redemptive clarity” of the ripieno. The music is seductive, even voluptuous. 3. Another is anguished, set in a minor key with an unsettling chromatic bass line that never really finds its footing till the end. Listen to excerpt 10, which depicts the whole sequence of Peter’s betrayal, and ends with him weeping. Based largely on gleanings from other sources (see the endnotes), they’re not especially original. Bruderhof life oldest dating back to the early 16th century ever written, Pt whose full force comes expression... 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