|This is my Once or Twice a Fortnight post from April 4th, 2012.|
For this Good Thursday, which launches the traditional time when the darkest moments of the Passion of the Christ take place, I thought I would pass this link to an openly-available vintage performance of Bach’s St-Matthew Passion.
Although Johann Sebastian Bach wrote "five passions, of which one is for double chorus", only two works have survived: the St John Passion (performed 1724, 1725, 1732 & 1749) and the St Matthew Passion (1727, 1729, rev. 1736, 1742), this last using double chorus. Their popularity rests in their immense emotional power, and in the blend of drama and spirituality that Bach's music offers. Neither of his Passions is a work that an audience or a choir embarks on without due thought: The Passion According to St John of 1724 runs to about two hours, the St Matthew of 1727 to three or more.
But the congregations who first experienced them at Bach's church of St Thomas in Leipzig would have devoted even longer to their Good Friday worship, since, in the tradition of the times, the musical part of the Passions was supplemented by prayers, readings, hymns and a sermon.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Matthew_Passion) provides a good overview and analysis of the work, so I have nothing more to add. On to the music!
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Matthäuspassion, BWV 244 (1727)
(Text by: Christian Friedrich Henrici , AKA Picander)
Helmut Krebs, Evangelist
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jesus
Elfriede Troetschel, Soprano
Diana Eustrati, Alto
Friedrich Haertel, Bass
Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin
Großer Chor des Berliner Rundfunks
Direction: Fritz Lehmann
(Broadcast performance, 1949)