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Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography)
Prepared by William Hoffman (April 2009)

The following attempts to cite credible, accessible, relevant, informative and significant source-critical findings from a variety of scholarly sources with respect to the early history and genesis of the St. Matthew Passion. Some of the findings have been revised or challenged. Of necessity, some early writings of Bitter, Spitta, Schweitzer, and Smend have been omitted. While they opened the door wide to grasp the significance of Bach and his masterpiece, some of their findings and opinions have not withstood further study. As pioneers in the understanding of Bach, they had a depth of comprehension, a generosity of spirit, and a rigor of pursuit, without which, further study, beyond Germany, would have been futile. IMHO, William Hoffman 4/6/09.



St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, NBA II/5, later version, calligraphic score, Bach autograph throughout; Part 2 has separate title page: “Passionis D. N. J. C. secundum Matthaeum a due Cori [for two choruses]. Parte Seconda.”



Obituary (Nekrology). C.P.E. Bach and Johann Friedrich Agricola. Bach Dokumente (BK) III/666 (pub. 1754). Unpublished works: “(3) Five Passions, of which one is for double chorus;” New Bach Reader (NBR), David Mendel & Wolff (Norton, NY, 1998: 304).



C.P.E. Bach. Musical Estate. “Sing-Pieces (p. 71): Two-chorus Passion according to Matthew; with accompaniment flutes, oboes, and a gamba. Handwritten score and also in parts.” This is now identified as BWV 244, second version, 1736. Then (p. 81): “A Passion according to Matthew, incomplete.” This is now identified as the J.F. Agricola incomplete score copy, 1741-74, of selections from the first version, 1727/1729).



J.N. Forkel. Life of Johann Sebastian Bach. Vocal compositions: “(2) Five compositions of the Passion, one of which is for two choruses.” NBR, David, Mendel & Wolff (Norton, NY, 1998: 472).



Carl Ludwig Hilgenfeldt. J. S. Bachs Leben, Wirken and Werken (Life, Influence & Work). Repro. Frits A.M. Knuf; Hilversum, Holland; 1965: 15-16.
Passions. Hilgenfeldt cites sources in C.P.E. Bach 1790 Musical Estate, for Bach’s manuscripts of BWV 245 and 244, the St. John Passion (SJP) and St. Matthew Passion (SMP), respectively: “The scores were in J.S. Bach’s autograph, and the first-named came into Pölchau’s possession; at present it is preserved in the Joachimsthal [Amalien] Bibliotek in Berlin.” In addition to the SMP and SJP, Hilgenfeldt says: “…the following brief statement was found in the above-mentioned catalogue at the end of the listings of those of E. Bach’s inherited vocal pieces from his father: ‘A Passion according to Matthew, incomplete’.” Hilgenfeldt then recounts that “Schicht possesses the Passion music according to Luke (BWV 246) and the score according to Mark [BWV 247, Picander 1731 published text extant] presently has not been discovered.” “The missing, incomplete Matthew Passion should have been composed in the year 1717,” says Hilgenfeldt. “Thus Bach probably twice had realized the Passion history according to the Evangelist Matthew.”



Charles Sanford Terry (1864-1936). Bach: The Passions, 2 Books. Reprint, Greenwood Press; Westport, CT: 1970.
Author’s Prefatory Note: “there is no other book on the subject, in English or foreign language, accessible to students, whose needs this Series serves.” Introduction: The five Bach Passions are the four Gospel Passions (BWV 244-247), the fifth is “Picander’s Passion, 1725” (Book 1, pp. 52-56). On p. 55, Terry says the Picander libretto, now BWV Anh. 169, “ends, like the St. Matthew Passion, with a ‘Chorus of the Faithful’ (BG No.78), whose lines Picander adapted in 1728 [sic] for that work. It starts: “Wir setzen uns ‘bey deinem Grabe’ (later changed to ‘mit tränen’) nieder.” In all, Picander later adapted seven movements: 1, chorus “Kommt, ihr Töchter”; 25(19), tenor arioso “O schmerz; 47(39), alto aria “Erbarme dich”; 58(49), soprano aria “Aus Liebe”; 60(51), alto arioso “Erbarmes Gott”; and 78(68) chorus “Wir setzen uns (old BG, Bach Gesellschaft; then NBA, Neue Bach Ausgabe). Posible, 70(60), “Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand/Wohin.”



Alfred Dürr (b.1918). “Zu den verschollenen Passionen Bachs” (Bach’s Lost Passions). Bach-Jahrbuch: 95-99.
A single chorus St. Matthew Passion precursor existed from the later Weimar years, says Dürr. It was probably in the form of an oratorio Passion. Bach “was not considering the modern Hunold- or Brockes type” poetic Passion oratorio (p. 95ff). Two particular places in the Evangelist’s recitative account of the John Passion (BWV 245) were expanded through interpolation from the Matthew Passion”: Peter wept bitterly (Mat. 26:75) and the seven measures of the rending of the veil of the temple, earthquake, opening of the graves and saints’ bodies arising (Mat. 27:51-52).
Dürr conjectures (p. 96) that “at least part of the Evangelist’s commentary probably was utilized, possibly also the single chorus turbae” (narrative crowd choruses) from the single chorus version to the double chorus version of the SMP, citing the “incomplete Matthew Passion” in the C.P.E. Bach estate.
Dürr also lists the two opening and closing chorale choruses and three arias in the expanded SJP version as possibly originating in the Weimar Passion: opening “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross” and closing “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” and the arias now BWV 245a-c, respectively, “Himmel Reiß,” Zerschmettert mich,” and “Ach, windet euch.” He singles out (p. 98) the aria “Himmel reiß” “Insbesondere” (above all) on the bases that its accompanying hymn melody, “Jesu, deine Passion,” and poetic text are specific to Weimar and inappropriate to its placement after Peter wept bitterly since the “Heavens opening” incipit refers to the earthquake at Christ’s death. Dürr also says the chorale, “Christus, der uns selig mach,” now BWV 283, could have originated in the Weimar Passion. (All six movements are accepted as surviving from the “Weimarer Passion,” Bach Compendium D-1: 1985 (p. 983); editors Christoph Wolff and Hans-Joachim Schulze.)



Bruno Walter. “Notes on Bach’s SMP,” essay in Of Music and Music Making, translated by Paul Hamburger. Norton: New York: 170-190).
The three Bach Passion ingredients -- narrative, lyrics, and hymns -- are seen as both dramatic and religious elements, from the perspective of the noted Jewish conductor. The SMP “contains a trinity of groups, each belonging to its proper sphere,” Walter says (p. 171ff). They are the Gospel narrative “protagonists”; “the pious individuals and choruses connected with them that accompany the action with their emotions and comments”; and “the Christian community whose chorales appear, within the animated profusion of action and sentiment, as the pillars that carry the edifice of the work.”



Arthur Mendel (1905-1979). “Traces of the Pre-History of Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion,” Festschrift OtDeutsch. Kassel: 32-48.
Five possible movements from the single-chorus 1717 Passion are identified (p. 32f) as the two chorale choruses, and three arias, BWV 245a, b and c. Mendel points out that the opening chorale chorus, “O Menswch, bewein’ dein Sünde groß” now closes Part 1 of the SMP. He also notes that the closing chorale chorus now closes Cantata BWV 23 for the pre-Lenten Sunday, Quinquagesima Estomihi. He says the aria “Ach, windet euch” (p. 32) “could not have been used in the SMP, since it comments on the scourging of Jesus by Pilate, which does not figure” in the three synoptic gospels.
Referring to Dürr’s (ref. No. 7) suggestion that portions of the SMP original single chorus narrative may have survived, Mendel singles out (p. 44f) three “pseudo-antiphonal” turbae choruses found in BWV 244, the 1736 version, which begin for eight voices and change to four voices: “Der du den Tempel Gottes zerbrichst,” BWV 244/58b; “Andern hat er geholfen, BWV 244/58d; and Her, wir haben gedacht,” 244/66b.



Arthur Mendel. “More on the Weimar Origins of Bach’s O Mensch, bewein (BWV 244/35).” Journal of the American Musicological Assn. (JAMS) 17: 203-06.
As an addendum to his previous study, Mendel asks if the biblical texts of the Weimar Passion might “draw on more than one of the Gospels?” (p.205). He points out that the chorale chorus text (BWV 244/35), “O Mensch,” a long hymn by Sebald Heyden, recounts “in rhyme the story of the Passion ‘nach den vier Evangelisten’,” according to the four evangelists, or Gospels.


Early 1970s

Joshua Rifkin. “The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244,” source: Liner notes to the 4-LP album ‘J.S. Bach: The Passion according to St. Matthew BWV 244’ conducted by Hans Swarowsky (Nonesuch); BCW, contributed by Aryeh Oron (June 2004).
”Bach’s funeral music has not come down to us, but the verse schemes of the surviving text (Klagt, kinder, klagt es alleWelt, BWV 244a) reveal that he adapted most of the work from the Passion, using several arias (BWV Nos. 6, 8, 13, 20, 23, 39, 49, 57, and 65), the final chorus, and perhaps some of the recitatives [ariosi] (BWV Nos. 5, 12, 19, 22, 34, 48, 56, 59, and 64).
“Several of the poems derive from earlier models. Picander's own Erbauliche Gedanken ...über den leidenden Jesum (Edifying Ref1ections on the Dying Jesus), a rhymed Passion text published in 1725, served as the basis for six numbers of the St. Matthew Passion (NBA 1, 19, 39, 49, 51, [60] and 68). Two more movements (Nos. 5 and 64) adapt poems by Bach's frequent Weimar librettist Salomon Franck. Picander also made a nod in Brockes's direction, taking the aria "Eilt, ihr angefocht'nen Seelen" [BWV 245/48(24) - which Bach had set in the St. John Passion - as his model for "Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand" (No. 60). Finally he introduced chorale texts into two movements (Nos. 1 and 19) and a passage from the Old Testament (Song of Songs 6, 1) into another (No. 30).
”The elements of the libretto interrelate in a number of ways. For example, their confrontation creates symbolic dialogues like the exchange "Herr, bin ich's? Ich bin's, sallte büssen" produced by the juxtaposition of the chorus of the disciples (No. 10) and the succeeding chorale, or the reply to Pilate's question "Was hat er denn übels getan?" (No. 47) with the recitative "Er hat uns allen wohlgetan" (No. 48). This movement and the following aria, "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben," momentarily relax the tension of the scene; but commentary can intensify the action as well: immediately before Pilate speaks, the chorale "Wie wunderbarlich ist dach diese Strafe!" (No. 46) heightens and transforms the savage emotions unleashed by the crowd screaming "Lass ihn kreuzigen!" (No. 45b). Other interpolated movements expand emotions and ideas latent in the biblical text. Peter's remorse, succinctly described by the Evangelist with the words "Und ging heraus, und weinete bitterlich" (No. 38c), underlies the aria "Erbarme dich" (No. 39) and the chorale "Bin ich gleich van dir gewichen" (No.40), while the recitative "O Schmerz!" (No. 19) and the following aria, "Ich will bei meinem lesum wachen," (No. 20) deepen, then radiantly dispel, the atmosphere of gloom that enshrouds Christ in Gethsemane.
[Rifkin suggests that the SMP first version probably was presented in 1727. Citing Picander’s 1725 poetic Passion on the lines of the Brockes Passion oratorio, he points to past findings of an early Weimar version which provided lyric movements for the SJP and its close link to the SMP’s music, lyric text, and structure,]



Dürr, Alfred. St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, NBA-KB II/5: 62-68, 81-83, 112, 235-39.
NBA II/5a has two early versions of BWV 244. One is the “Matthew, incomplete” from the C.P.E. Bach 1790 Estate in an early two-chorus version copied by Johann Friedrich Agricola, Bach’s one-time pupil, during Agricola’s years in Berlin, 1741-1774. The other is a complete two-chorus version copied by Johann Christoph Altnikol (1719-55), Bach pupil and son-in-law, in Berlin, 1744-48, published as BWV 244b. The Altnikol complete score is a copy of the first version of the St. Matthew Passion, 1727/29. The “incomplete” Agricola copy, derived from the first version, is either, Dürr suggests (p. 66), SMP highlights, that is, the most “beautiful” music, since Agricola was rushed for time, or contains excerpts perhaps for a pasticcio Passion form popular at the time in Berlin and elsewhere.



Arthur Mendel. St. John Passion, BWV 245, NBA KB II/4: 67, 108-111).
In his companion Critical Commentary to BWV 245, Mendel shows that Bach’s first performance of the SJP was in 1724, not 1723 as previously thought. Mendel also confirms his previous findings that the work was presented in four different versions over a 25-year period. Also, the second version included as many as five lyric movements from the 1717 Weimar Passion, including three arias designated BWV 245a, b, and c. Mendel points out that the interpolation of Matthew’s rending of the veil of the temple and earthquake in BWV 245/33 took different forms in the four versions of the St. John Passion: (1) 1724, just the rending of the veil of the temple in three measures, Mat. 27:51a, also found in Mark 15:38; (2) 1725, expanded to seven measures with the added earthquake, graves’ opening and bodies arising, Mat. 27:51b and 52, not found in Mark 15:38; (3) third version, c1732, a possible substitution of a missing instrumental interlude in lieu of the entire Matthew interpolation; and (4) final version, 1749, restoration of the 1725 full, seven-measure interpolation. Mendel shows that Bach’s adaptations of the Matthew interpolation in the St. John Passion suggest the possibility that the 1717 Weimar Passion presumed narration did “draw on more than one of the Gospels.”



Joshua Rifkin. “The chronology of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion,” Musical Quarterly 361: 360-87.
In a scholarly, source-critical article with extensive footnotes, Rifkin lays out hargument for a first performance in 1727. He cites a fragmentary instrumental part (1 ½ bars) of a first-violin line of the final SMP aria, “Mache dich, mein Herze rein,” on the back of the verso of the viola part for the Bach Sanctus in D, BWV 232III, dated from late 1726 to early 1727, for a reperformance on Easter Sunday, 13 April, 1727. He also argues persuasively that Bach’s parody of the SMP, the Köthen Funeral Music, BWV 244a, begun in late 1728, shows that Bach must have had a complete early version of the SMP in hand. Rifkin, repeats his earlier argument showing Bach had full opportunity to compose and present the SMP in 1727, almost two years after he had ceased to compose weekly church cantatas.



Paul Steinitz. Bach’s Passions. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Following in Terry’s footsteps, Steinitz, English choral director, provides the first current, comprehensive examination of Bach’s Passions. Most significant is Chapter 4, “The texts of Bach’s Passions,” especially the section on “Free texts,” based on recent findings involving Hamburg poets Christian Weise (1642-1708), “The Weeping Peter” (1675); Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747), “Brockes Passion” (1712) and Christian Heinrich Postel (1685-1705), “St. John Pasion” (1704). Besides a detailed account of the Passion tradition and characteristics, there are chapters on the SJP and SMP movements and a chapter on changes to the SJP and SMP, as well as an appendix on the text and melody origins of the chorales.



Christoph Wolff. “Bach’s St. John Passion: An Introduction,” recording notes, Polydor International (English translation John Coombs).
Wolff reviews recent, critical scholarship, showing that all Bach’s Passion music and poetry are interrelated and were developed over a long period of complex, intricate gestation. He traces the reflective lyrics of the SJP and the SMP to the Hamburg School of Brockes and Postel (1685-1705), the strong religious influence of Christian Weise (and Salomo Franck (1659-1725), and the early significance of Passion chorales from the Weimar period. Relating the complex 25-year history of the four revisions of the St. John Passion, he shows Bach struggling within the context of the tradition of the literal biblical narrative to achieve a monumental, two-part cohesive structure interspersed with substantial lyrical commentary at appropriate places.
Wolff focuses on the second version of 1725 and the reasons for a “substantial revision.” He examines the substitution of three chorale-related movements: the new opening chorus, “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross”; the new closing German Agnus Dei chorus, “Christe du Lamm Gottes,” and the tenor aria “Himmel reiße, welt erbebe,” to the soprano cantus firmus, “Jesu, deine Passion.” He says: “In fact, the newly added pieces fit ideally into the context of the 1724-1725 cycle of chorale cantatas” and “can be seen as logical and eminently sensible.”
Citing Spitta, Wolf points out the influence of poet Franck in “Zerschmettert mich,” as well as in the SMP first and last solo ariosi Du lieber Heiland du” (No. 5) and “Am Abend” (No. 64). Wolff fails to mention the other tenor aria, “Ach, windet euch nicht so,” BWV 245c, which replaced both the bass arioso (No. 19), Betrachte, meine Seele,” and the tenor aria, “Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken” (No. 20) inm 1725.
Wolff cites the Hilgenfeldt JSB biography (ref. No. 5) to support the existence of a Weimar Passion, noting that Hilgenfeldt “had access to sources of information from the Hamburg circle around C.P.E. Bach no longer available to us. . . .”
Wolff speculates that Bach originally planned to compose new Passion music in 1725, set to the 1725 Picander Passion libretto but “gave up on various grounds probably textually and liturgically,” since it was entirely poetic verse paraphrasing the biblical text.



Chafe, Eric. “J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion: Aspects of Planning, Structure, and Chronology,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 35 (1982): 49-114.
Chafe’s extensive monograph of the relationship between theology and music considers Bach’s organic, instead of linear, composition of the SMP; the overall tonal structure related to theology and dramatic allegory; and the contents of Agricola’s “incomplete” copy of the SMP first version “which might somehow reflect an early plan of Bach’s” (p. 98). Chafe suggests that Bach “composed certain pivotal movements at the start,” possibly “the final chorus. . .before some or even all the rest of the Passion.” He cites (p. 54) Terry 1926, who shows the movement’s “textual indebtedness” to the 1725 Picander Passion, “its musical connections to the final chorus” of the SJP, and “a Köthen lute sarabande as the ‘original’ of the chorus.” Chafe begins his discussion of the SMP tonal structure with a hypothetical text underlay of the music of the closing chorus, “Wir setzen us,” showing the three text variants: a) Picander’s 1725 Passion text, BWV Anh, 169; b) the Altnikol score copy text of the original SMP, BWV 244b; and c) Bach’s 1736 text version, BWV 244.
He demonstrates the connection between theology and dramatic allegory, in the beginning of the Passion final scene, called the Golgatha dialogue (NB: also called the via crucis, via dolorosa, or the Stations of the Cross). “It is possible that Bach developed the idea for a double-chorus Passion from these very movements,” says Chafe (p. 67). Turning to Agricola’s incomplete draft of the SMP original version, Chafe cites Dürr’s hypotheses that Agricola’s selection of movements involved either the most beautiful music or it might have been intended to serve as the nucleus of a pasticcio Passion (NBA KB II/5: 66). He suggests (p. 98) that the Agricola score might “reflect an early plan of Bach’s”; that “a few movements copied by Agricola may have been composed as early as 1725-26” (p. 103). The evidence includes the Picander 1725 Passion text, the textual influences in the St. Mark Passion performed in 1726, and the three-movement sequence, with an SMP possible connection, in Cantata BWV 55, presented on the 23nd Sunday After Trinity, 17 November, 1726. “we would probably incline towards the view that the sequence appeared first in the (SM) Passion. . . .
“Much more interesting is the musical and textual relationship,” says Chafe (p. 103), between the SMP dialogue chorus, “Sind Blitze” (27b) and a the penultimate line in the fourth movement bass scena (arioso and aria) with high trumpet, “When one day trrumpets sound,” from Cantata BWV 127 for the pre-Lenten Sunday of Quinquageisma Estomihi, 11 February 1725. This connection, says Chafe, was previously cited by Smend (Church Cantatas VI, 45) and Whittaker (Cantatas II: 449). Chafe also points out (p. 107) another Passion connection between the opening chorale chorus of BWV 127 and its insertion at the end of Part 1 of the Passion Pastiche After C.H. Graun, which Bach probably performed c.1743-48 and J. C. Altnikol repeated on Good Friday, March 29, 1750, according to the BCW. Chafe calls this chorus “Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott” (Paul Eber), “unique in Bach’s cantata oeuvre in that two (other) Passion chorales are interwoven simultaneously in the vocal and instrumental parts, respectively, “Herzlich tut mich verlangen” and Christe, du Lamm Gottes.”
(Also in the Passion is Bach’s bass arioso, “So heb ich denn mein Auge,” BWV 1088, which begins Part 2. There is a textual connection in word choice and rhyme between this arioso insertion and the tenor arioso and chorus, BWV 244/19, “O Schmerz,” according to the BCW.)
Chafe restates his belief that at least a few SMP turbae choruses may have originated in the Weimar Passion (p. 108) and that the emphasis on three hymn tunes in 10 SMP chorale settings and “O Lamm Gottes unschuldig” could “increase the structural prominence of the chorale” (p. 110). Chafe even suggests that two 1725 SJP substitute arias, “Zerchmettert mich” and “Ach, windet euch,” BWV 245b and c, also appropriate to Matthew’s Passion account (p. 110f), could have been removed after the 1725 SJP performance and planned at the appropriate places in the 1727 SMP.
Chafe concludes (in a long footnote, p. 112) with the notion that Bach in 1725 may have began to create the SMP, along with the first version of the Easter Oratorio, as part of a grand scheme involving a “Christological cycle” of oratorios, realized in the 1730s. In that decade, Bach’s composed oratorios for Christmas, BWV 248 (1734-35); (completed) the Easter, BWV 249 (c.1735); Ascension (1735), Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (1736); and St. John Passion, BWV 245 (sketch 1735-42). To these could be added a possible Pentecost Oratorio, 1735 (Dürr: Cantatas of JSB, 2005, p. 44); the lost, parodied St. Mark Passion (1731); and the five Kyrie-Gloria Masses, BWV 232I-236 (1733-38). Except for the SMP and SJP, all the other works are significant parodies.



Robin A. Leaver. “J. S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship.” Church Music Pamphlet Series; Carl Schalk, Editor. St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House: 26-36.
Leaver’s thesis is that Bach’s Passions, like his cantatas “are similarly kerygmatic” (apostolic proclamation of salvation Jesus Christ). They are sermons in sound that in their two halves prepare for the actual preaching at Good Friday vespers and then build on it” (p. 26). He suggests that the SMP is like a sermon or any classic argument, with five clearly defined elements: exordium (introduction), proposito (key statement = Biblical text), tractatio (investigation of the proposito = exposition of the Biblical text), applicatio (application), and conclusio (final statement). All five elements are to be found in Bach’s Passions.”
1. The exordium or introduction (p. 27f) is the great opening chorus, and in the SMP “it looks forward to what the Book of Revelation reveals, the “Lamb of God guiltless,” concluding with an echo of the Vespers Litany, “Have mercy on us, O Jesus.”
2. The proposito or key statement of the Biblical text is the theological purpose of the particular Passion Gospel narrative. In the SMP this theme is framed in a “more complicated and less obvious overall [cross-like, palindrome SJP] structure” (p. 33). Leaver cites Elke Axmacher’s findings that the SMP is directly influenced by Lutheran theologian Heinrich Müller’s “Passion sermons on the whole suffering of Christ.” (“Ein Quellefund zum Texte der Matthäus Passion,” Bach-Jahrbuch, 1978: 181-91). This is the theme of sacrifice through atonement. Leaver says the central structural point is No. 49, the soprano aria, “Aus Liebe,” at the end of trial before Pilate, and the “emotional and dramatic center” is the brief turbae chorus, 63b, “Truly, this was the son of God,” after Christ’s death and the earthquake.
3. The tractatio (investigation of the proposito = exposition of the Biblical text) occurs in the SMP in “the pattern of exposition” using Biblical text followed by lyrical commentary in the ariosi and arias (p. 28f).
4. The applicatio (application) involves the chorales as the response of the congregation (p. 29f) especially the chorale fantasia, “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross,” closing Part 1 in 1736.
5. The conclusio (conclusion) is the monumental closing chorus, “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder.”



Günther Stiller. JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (trans. Bouman, Poellot, Oswald). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 62.
The “Good Friday sermon in Leipzig in the main service ‘was in alternate years either on Isaiah 53 [“The Suffering Servant”] or Psalm 22 [“The Solace of Suffering” or “A Cry of Anguish”]. The Vesper sermon had long been given ‘only in St. Thomas Church’ but from 1723 onward a Vesper service was conducted regularly also at St. Nicholas on Good Friday, Superintendent Deyling himself preaching the first sermon. A special high point of this service, at St. Thomas since 1721 and at St. Nicholas since 1724, and thereafter alternately in both main churches, was the performance of a Passion oratorio.”
Previously, says Stiller, instead of the Gospel read in the main services on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, The Passion according to St. Matthew and St. John, respectively, were sung (chanted), as found in various Lutheran congregational hymnbooks.



Christoph Wolff. “Bach’s Great Passion,” in recording St. Matthew Passion. John Eliot Gardiner, Archiv Produktion 427 648-2 (English translation Michael Talbot): 24-30.
The unified libretto in both literary and musical respects, says Wolff, is of particular significance for the overall design of the SMP. The original version was altered once to reinforce “its monumental character by extending its musical structure and expanding the performing body” in 1736 (p. 24). Wolff cites the addition of the “swallow’s nest organ” “to the cantus firmus line of the choruses framing the first part.” It “is important to see how he planned and ordered it so as to bring out a wealth of interconnections,” says Wolff (p. 25). “The central compositional substance” “is found in the madrigalesque pieces,” with great polyphonic elaboration, “the lyrical contemplations of individual scenes.”
Wolff divides the SMP into 15 dramatic (scenic) units, or “actions,” and two exordia, or introductions to the two parts (p. 26), shown in Picander’s original 1729 libretto. Wolff designates six scenes as symbolic “contemplations in dialogue form” between the Daughter(s) of Zion and the Chorus of Believers “which clarify the dramatic structure of the work further by employing the chorus”: Scene 1 (No. 1); The Daughters of Zion and the Faithful (derived from Brockes) plus the chorale cantus firmus; Scene 2 at Gethsemane (Nos. 19-20, NBA) tenor arioso and aria with chorus, “Ah woe!” and “I will watch with Jesus”; Scene 3, Jesus; arrest (No. 27a-b), soprano-alto duet with chorus, ”My Jesus now is taken,” and chorus, “Will lightning and thunder”; Scene 4 (Part 2 opening, No. 30), bass aria with chorus, “Ah, now is my Jesus gone”; Scene 5 at the cross (Nos. 59-60), alto arioso “Ah Golgatha,” and alto aria with chorus, “Look ye, Jesus waiting stands”; Scene 6 (Nos. 67-68), SATB arioso with chorus, “And now the lord is laid to rest,” and chorus, “Here at Thy grave sit we all weeping.” The Golgatha arioso (No. 59) “is probably the harmonically most extreme vocal movement that Bach ever wrote,” says Wolff.
Wolff (p. 27) designates the dozen lyrical arioso-aria combinations as “the second group of contemplative pieces,” personal and intimate, especially four introductory ariosi, Nos. 22, 48, 51, and 59. He identifies a third group of contemplative pieces as the three stand-alone arias without preceding ariosi: Nos. 8, 39, and 42, with the common theme of the despair and guilt of the two disciples, Peter and Judas, especially the last with solo violin, “Give me back my lord.” In between these strategically placed lyrical commentaries is the core complimentary biblical narrative. The SMP’s narrative strengths, says Wolff (p. 28), especially in contrast to the earlier composed and revised SJP, include the Evangelist’s neutral tone of expression, concise and restrained expressive and direct, as well as tonal, musical, and textual correspondences, especially in the turbae (crowd) choruses (p. 29).
Wolff also finds special strengths in Bach’s use of the 12 integral chorales. Because of the large number of hymns, he says, Bach achieves unity out of diversity by employing three hymn-tunes in 10 of the chorales: “Herzlich tut mich verlagen,” (“O sacred head now wounded”) with five different settings; “Herzliebster Jesu” (“Dearest Jesus”) three times; and “O Welt, ich muss dich lassen” (“O World, I must leave thee”) twice. Further, says Wolff, Bach makes connections among the chorales through varied harmonic settings and selective use of particular stanzas. The crowning achievement in the SMP, says Wolff, is Bach’s and Picander’s “seamless integration” of the “two fundamentally different textual layers”-- madrigalesque poetry with holy scripture and chorales – established in the opening chorus’ blending of statement, question, and hymn-tune, providing “the summation of what the Passion oratorio aims to achieve in terms of content, structure, music, and expression.” (Wolff’s original draft is the article “Dramatic Structure in Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion,” Bach: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute: 1988, No. 1



Towe, Terri Noel. “Bach’s Own Performance Practice,” Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244, Choral Music On Records, BCW, courtesy Cambridge University Press.
Towe gives a concise summary of the differences in the first version of the SMP, BWV 244b, (1727) and the familiar 1736 version: “Originally, there was but one continuo line that accompanied the two four-voice choirs rather than two independent ones, and the obbligato instrument in the aria ‘Komm süsses Kreuz’ and the preceding arioso [Nos. 65 and 66] was a lute rather than a viola da gamba. The First Part lacked the chorale ‘Ich will hier bei dir stehen’ [No. 23], and, more importantly, ended not with the remarkable and monumental chorale fantasia ‘O Mensch, bewein' dein Sünde gross’ [No. 29], which Bach originally composed to open the 1725 version of the Saint John Passion BWV 245, but with a simple four-voice chorale setting, ‘Jesum laß ist nicht von mir.’



Eric Thomas Chafe. Chapter 12, “St. Matthew Passion: The Lutheran Meditative Tradition”; in Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach. Berkeley and Los Angeles CA: University of California Press, pp. 337-423.
A decade after his initial monograph on the SMP planning, structure and chronology, Chafe reviews and summarizes major findings in the context of an SMP extended tonal plan using theology and allegory (complex metaphor) to achieve unity and cohesion in Bach’s most integral, monumental Passion setting. Initially, Chafe shows that Bach in early 1725 turned from cantata cycle composition to the projected SMP. He argues persuasively that Bach’s annual Passion presentations in 1725 and 1726 were part of a deliberate, protracted process to achieve a larger, unified SMP setting. The SJP 1725 second version was modified “to accommodate it to the chorale cantata cycle and. . .to bring it theologically closer” to the SMP. The 1726 Bach revival of the Keiser (Bruhns) St. Mark Passion enabled Bach to find the key Golgatha dialogue as the dramatic and theological lynch-pin for the SMP, launching the Passion narrative final scene, also called the Stations of the Cross.
The pivotal SMP alto arioso, No. 59, “Ah, Golgatha,” what Wolff above (No. 16) calls one of the six “contemplations in dialogue form,” was “presumably inspired by the appearance in the Keiser Passion of an aria, ‘O Golgatha” “at the same crucial place” in the Passion story, says Chafe (p. 340). Chafe also initially establishes (p. 337f) that the “major texts that influenced” the SMP included the sermons of Heinrich Müller “above all, the Keiser Passion, Picander’s earlier Passion poem, and the SJP” and these “indicate a close collaboration between Bach and Picander prior to the completion of the SMP text.” Chafe even suggests that “Leipzig authorities may have directed Bach to Picander, and even to the Müller sermons, hoping that these would provide him with a more orthodox Lutheran viewpoint than is present” in the SJP. (p. 338).
The SMP, says, Chafe has a conspicuous three-division plan (p. 340): Part 1, Nos. 1-29, through Jesus’ arrest; Part 2, Nos. 30-58d, from the questioning of the high priests to the mocking of Jesus on the cross; and Nos. 59-68, “Ah Golgatha,” from the sixth hour to the burial. The dramatic core of the Passion is the crowd confrontation involving the high priests and the trial before Pilate in a series of 10 turba chorus accusatory outcries. Several “key ideas in the text” of the opening chorale fantasia “are reflected throughout the Passion, particularly Part Two, in individual meditative movements, and approximately in the order of the prologue,” says Chafe (p. 343): Schuld (guilt) and “unshuldig” (guiltless) in chorale verses and the arioso “Ah, Golgatha” (No. 59); “Geduld” (be calm) in the aria “Geduld” (No. 35) “Lieb” (love) in the aria “Aus Liebe” (No. 49); and Kreuze (cross) in the aria “Komme, süßes Kreuz” (Come, sweetest cross), No. 57).
Chafe also shows (p. 346f) that the basic theological premise found in Müller is reflected in virtually all the SMP arias and that it “runs closely parallel to the themes introduced” in the prologue. This Lutheran theme is called the satisfaction theory of redemption, that Christ’s sacrifice is atonement for Mankind’s fall. Chafe says that “Bach articulates the central meaning of these movements” through special solo instrumentation, dialogue treatment with chorus, key structure or tonal allegory, and musical correspondence with other movements.



Ulrich Leisinger. “Forms and Functions of the choral movements in J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,” in Bach Studies 2, ed. Daniel R. Melamed. Cambridge Univ. Press: 70-84.
Leisinger addresses the issues of the SMP’s use of double chorus and “its mixture of a wide variety of musical types” (p.70). He reviews Bach’s 1725-29 interest in and production of funeral music (BWV 244a and 198) and double chorus usage (motets BWV 226 and 229). He shows Bach’s early thoughts about an SMP with particular attention to Passion chorales and unified lyrical music in the SMP structure and deployment of separate forces. Leisinger argues (p.80) that Bach “intentionally combines the most diverse types of movements” to achieve “unity in variety and the idea of perfection,” based on Liebnitz’ philosophical concepts.



Robin A. Leaver. “The mature vocal works and their theological and liturgical context” in The Cambridge Companion to Bach, ed. John Butt. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press: 88-122.
Leaver (p. 105ff) cites four reasons for the early dating of the SMP 1727 version: (1) The “musical and textual connections between” the chorale Cantata BWV 127/4 scena (arioso-aria) penultimate line (Quinquagesima Estomihi Sunday, 11 February 1725) and the dialogue chorus “Sind Blitze, sind Donner,” 244b/27b, closing the SMP Part 1; (2) the first violin quotation from the final aria “Mache dich, mein Herze rein’,” BWV 244b/65, found on the back side of a viola part for Bach’s Sanctus, BWC 232III, performned on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1725; (3) Picander’s 1725 published proto Passion libretto, BWV Anh, 169; and (4) the subsequent Köthen Funeral Music parody, BWV 244a.
Leaver says that to compile his SMP libretto, Picander relied on his 1725 lyric Passion liand a published collection of sermons from Bach’s personal library, theologian Heinrich Müller’s preachings “on the whole suffering of Christ,” first published in 1681, Evangelisches Praeservative wider den Schaden Josephs, in allen dreyen Ständen (Evangelical preservative against the griefs of Joseph, in all three states). Leaver cites the findings of Elke Axmacher that “about half of the arias” were influence by Müller’s sermons (Aus lieber will mein Heyland sterben (pp. 170-196), Untersuchungen zum Wandel des Passionsverständnisses in frühes (Beiträge zur theologischen Bachforschung).



Andreas Glöckner. “The concrete forms given to a musical conception – the versions of the St. John Passion by JSB,” translation J & M Berridge. Notes to Helmuth Rilling recording, Hänssler 98.170: 11.
Glöckner summarizes Bach’s Passion music activity prior to composing the SJP in Leipzig. He dates composition of Keiser’s St. Mark Passion to 1708-13 when Bach copied it for performance during his Weimar tenure.
Bach’s own Passion of 1717 was presented on Good Friday, March 26, the same date that Leipzig heard its first extended, lyrical passion, presumably Telemann’s “Brockes Passion,” says Glöckner. Citing research, he says the Bach work was performed in the “church at Friedenstein Palace in Gotha. There Bach was substituting for the long-standing Hofkapellmeister to Duke Friedrich II, Christian Friedrich Witt, who was at the time on his death bed and no longer able to conduct the annual performance of the Passion, already a tradition at Court; he died shortly afterwards, on April 13, 1717. Only days after Easter, on April 12, Bach received a gratuity of twelve talers for his presentation of the Passion. Although we know that the libretto was printed, it has unfortunately not come down to us; printed works from around the same time indicate however that the composition Bach performed in Gotha was an oratorio Passion. Only a few of its movements have been preserved (chiefly in the second version of the SJP, BWV 245, and apparently – as the latest studies of source documents have brought to light – also in the solo tenor cantata, ‘Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht’,” BWV 55).



Martin Geck. “The Passions,” in JSB Life and Work, translated John Hargraves. Orlando FL: Harcourt, 385-414.
Geck points to the SJP precedent of the Christian Friedrich Hunold (1681-1721) first documented Passion oratorio, “Der blutige und sterbene Jesus” (The Bloody and Dying Jesus). Set by Keiser in 1704 and performed in the municipal almshouse, it was the forerunner of the “Brockes Passion” (1712) with texts “largely freely composed and set essentially as in modern opera -- as recitative, arioso, and aria” (p. 385).
He recounts the four Brockes settings of Keiser, Handel, Telemann and Mattheson, performed in Hamburg in Holy Week 1719, as well as Telemann’s at the progressive Leipzig New Church in 1717. Geck describes the Brockes influence on seven of the nine ariosos and arias, “greatly altered,” in Bach’s SJP. He says the origin of the text of the soprano aria“Ich folge dir” (No. 9) is unknown while the tenor aria, “Ach, mein Sinn” (No. 13) comes from Christian Weise poetry, “an example of how a purely instrumental introduction can be given a ‘madrigalian ode’ as an underlay” (p. 387f). Geck then suggests that Picander “might still have been given the job of adapting the libretto for the SJP.”
Turning to the SMP, Geck cites the influences of literary models of Heinrich Müller sermons and the “Brockes Passion” as well as Bach’s colleague, Johann Christoph Gottsched, who in 1730 encourages the use of allegorical figures from religion, such as the Daughters of Zion and the Faithful Soul, in the musical oratorio genre.



Andreas Glöckner. Foreward, SMP Frühfassung der Matthäus-Passion (NBA II/5b – Bärenreiter, 2004).

Thomas Braatz (BCW) says: In the foreword to his complete, printed edition, Glöckner describes any possible predecessors to the SMP as follows:

<Johann Sebastian Bachs Matthäus-Passion hat eine offenbar längere – vielleicht sogar bis in die Zeit vor 1727 zurückreichende – Vorgeschichte. Bereits für die Leipziger Passionsaufführung des Jahres 1726 bleibt ungewiß, ob Bach zunächst ein eigenes Werk darbieten wollte (und mit dessen Komposition begonnen hatte?), oder ob er von Anfang an eine Wiederaufführung der schon 1712/13 in Weimar musizierten (ehedem Reinhard Keiser zugeschriebenen) Markus-Passion plante. Anlaß für solche Überlegungen gibt ein fragmentarischer Eintrag zur Arie „Mache dich, mein Herze, rein” (Nr. 65) der Matthäus-Passion auf einer Viola-Stimme des D-Dur-Sanctus BWV 232 (III), die zum Osterfest (13. April) des Jahres 1727 neu ausgeschrieben worden ist. Ob diese Arie bereits zu jener Zeit der Matthäus-Passion oder einem anderen (älteren) Werk angehörte, läßt sich freilich nicht mit Gewißheit sagen. Zumindest belegt Bachs Nachbemerkung im Brief an seinen Schüler Christoph Gottlob Wecker vom 20. März 1729, „Mit der verlangten Passions Musique wolte gerne dienen, wenn sie nicht selbsten heüer benöthiget wäre”, daß die für den bevorstehenden Karfreitag (15. April) 1729 geplante Passionsmusik in irgendeiner älteren Fassung schon existierte.«>

<The history of J. S. Bach’s SMP apparently goes back to an even earlier time, perhaps even to a time stretching back before the [established] prehistory that begins with [Holy Week] 1727. Already with the Passion performance of 1726, it remains unclear whether Bach initially had wanted to offer a new work that he had composed (which he had begun composing?), or whether he had originally planned a repeat performance of the St. Mark Passion (previously ascribed to Reinhard Keiser) that he had already performed in Weimar in 1712/13. The reason for considering these possibilities is based upon a fragmentary sketch for the aria, “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein” (No. 65) which appears on a viola part for the D-major Sanctus BWV 232 (III) that had been recently copied out for performance on Easter (April 13), 1727. It cannot be determined with [any degree of] certainty whether this aria, at that time, already belonged to the SMP or a different (older) composition. What can at least be determined is offered in Bach’s postscript in a letter addressed to one of his students, Christoph Gottlob Wecker, dated March 20, 1729: “In regard to the Passion music that you inquired about, I would gladly allow you to use it if I did not have to use it here myself this year.” Here it becomes clear that the Passion music he refers to, the one for which a planned performance was imminent on Good Friday (April 15) 1729, already existed in some kind of older version [the details of which have not yet been firmly documented].”>



Alfred Dürr. Cantata BWV 55, in The Cantatas of JSB. Oxford University Press: pp. 616-618.
In his discussion of the tenor solo Cantata BWV 55 for the 22nd Sunday After Trinity, 17 November 1726, Dürr says: “movements 3-5 were adapted from an older, lost composition – possibly a Passicantata or the lost Weimar Passion of 1717,” BC D-1. He cites Andreas Glöckner NBA KB I/26, 1995, and “Neue Spuren zu Bach’s ‘Weimarer” Passion, Leipziger Beiträge zur Bach-Forschung I (1995), 33-46. The movements are aria “Erbarme dich, laß die Tränen dich erweichen,” arioso “Erbarme dich! jedoch nun,” and chorale “Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen.”
The corresponding SMP movements are the symbolic dialogue, Nos. 47(39) and 48(40), alto aria “Erbarme dich, mein Gott,” and chorale, same text, “Bin ich gleich,” which occur just after Mat. 26:75, Peter weeps bitterly. It can be assumed that prior to the 1727 first performance of his SMP, Bach chose to use this existing Passion music and was replacing it with a new aria and setting of the same choral text.



Daniel R. Melamed. “The Double Chorus in the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244,” in Hearing Bach’s Passions. New York: Oxford University Press: 49-65.
The essential theme of this study is that today we hear Bach’s Passion settings “distantly removed from their original contexts” as written for liturgical events and performed with concomitant conventions (Preface v). Melamed points out two key features of Passions in Bach’s time: They were heard “against the background of other liturgical and devotional music and of contemporary operas” while “Passion settings were revised, altered, and tampered with both by their composers and by other musicians who used them.”
Melamed shows that the key to understanding the almost 300-year-old SMP is the shape, use, and meaning of the performing forces as Bach determined them in his definitive 1736 version. Melamed provides three appendices tables showing the six dialogue sections, a comparison of the SJP and SMP performing forces, and the Picander libretto of lyric movements within the Gospel narration.
Bach observes his time’s “division of singers into concertists who sang everything and ripieno singers who might join them in choruses” (p. 51ff). While the SMP has two equal supporting instrumental ensembles with separate basso continuo, it “is not essentially a double chorus composition and certainly not a symmetrical one.” The second chorus is subordinate, especially in the dramatic dialogue scenes. While the two choirs sing in unison in the ensemble movements and chorales, they begin some of the Gospel crowd choruses, separately but soon merge in what are called “pseudo-antiphonal” choruses. Further, he shows that the earliest (1727) version of the SMP had forces “strikingly comparable” to the 1725 second version of the SJP, that is, “the incremental number of instruments . . . is small . . . but apparently manageable (p. 62). In “The ‘double-chorus’ design and its origins,” Melamed points to the bass aria with chorus commentary, SJP/32, “Mein Treuer Heiland” (p. 57) as Bach’s initial dialogue movement and “that its success there played a role in the decision to score the SMP as he did.” In his original article (see at end, Ref. No. 23, p. 9), he observes: “(Compare the other bass aria in the St. John Passion, No. 24 ‘Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen,’ in which the soloist is questioned [‘Wohin?’] by only the three upper parts; the movement requires no additional bass singer.)
Turning to the original 1725 Picander Passion text, Melamed shows the Brockes-Hamburg influence on Bach’s Passion allegorical characters and dialogue settings. The author asserts that the SJP aria “Mein Treuer Heiland” was “Bach’s musical inspiration for the organizing forces” of the SMP. He concludes that “the most important aspect of Bach’s revision of the SMP in 1736 was his move toward the appearance of full independence of two choirs” (p. 65) and the SMP’s relationship to the SJP and other single chorus works is one of degree, not of difference.”
(Fuller citations to literature on the work in Daniel R. Melamed, “The Double Chorus in J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion BWV 244,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 57, I (2004): 3-50:
Picander turned to the poetry of his [1725] oratorio two years later for several numbers in the St. Matthew Passion: No. 39 “Erbarme dich” was modeled on the second stanza of a strophic aria for Peter, “Ich flehe dich um meiner Zähren”; No. 49 “Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben” was based on an aria for Jesus, “Aus Liebe will ich alles dulden”; and No. 68 “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder” was adapted from the closing aria with the text “Wir setzen uns bey deinem Grabe nieder” assigned to the “Chor der Gläubigen Seelen.”
But none of these texts, and indeed nothing in Picander’s oratorio, is cast as a dialogue; that essential element of the St. Matthew Passion was not part of the 1725 material. (p. 41)
Footnote 71 (p. 43). <It could also be argued that the two dialogues “Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen” and “Mein teurer Heiland” together were the models for No. 1 “Kommt, ihr Töchter,” the opening movement of the St. Matthew Passion.From the first (“Kommt! — Wohin? — Nach Golgatha”) Bach and Picander took the structure of the opening movement’s dialogue (“Sehet! — Wen? — den Bräutigam”); from the second they took the overlaying of a chorale on a poetic text.>



Andreas Glöckner. “Preface,” St. Matthew Passion, Early Version, BWV 244b. Translated by Steve Taylor. Kassel, Bassel: Bärenreiter. Supplementary edition to NBA II/Vb.
“It cannot of course be stated with any certainty whether this bass aria [“Mache dich,” ref. No. 14 above] of 1727 was specifically composed for the [SM] Passion or originally belonged to a different (older) work. The same may also be said for the arias ‘Geduld’ (no. 35), ‘Gib mir meinen Jesum wieder’ (no. 42) and ‘Können Tränen meiner Wangen’ (no. 52),” says Glöckner. He repeats the suggestion that the tenor aria (no. 35) “origins might be in an older source,” as well as the bass aria (no. 42). He also cites Bach’s letter dated 20 March 1729 to his pupil, Christoph Gottlob Wecker in Schweidnitz (Silesia): “Would have gladly obliged with the Passions Musique requested, were I not to need it myself this year.” Says Glöckner: “The observation that some of the turbae choruses in the Passion can easily be traced back to a single-chorus model would perhaps speak in favor of the assumption that Bach might have used (at least in part) a common (older) exemplar to produce both the double-chorus St. Matthew Passion and the funeral music [BWV 244a] in 1729.” Glöckner restates the argument that Bach, as director of a Leipzig Collegium musicum since March 1729, “was able for the first time to perform a work [SMP] with nearly sixty musicians, since it would seem a plausible explanation for Bach reworking and expanding it to a version for double chorus. Assuming this theory to be correct, the Passion would have been heard in a single-chorus version on Good Friday 1727.”
“The assumption that both the funeral music and the SMP may derive from a common source might be supported by the observation that almost all double-choir turba choruses of the SMP can easily be reduced with insignificant minor changes to a single choir version. Bach’s reworking and expansion of the same music from a single choir to a double choir version would be plausible since Bach had just begun conducting one of the two Leipzig Collegia.” (Braatz trans. BWC 244b General Discussion) Glöckner points out that C.P.E. Bach used substantial parts of the SMP in a Passion pastiche (H 782) in 1769 and “reworked” two double-chorus turbae choruses, “Der du den Tempel Gottes zerbrichst” and “Andern hat er geholfen” (ref. No. 8 above), “to make them single chorus movements.” The 1727 first-performance theory, says Glöckner, is supported by the fact that the “swallow’s nest organ” was repaired in 1727, pfor the performance of the chorale cantus firmus “O Lamm Gottes unschuldig” in the introductory chorus of the original SMP (found in version BWV 244b).
The SMP early version, BWV 244b, survives only in a copyist’s score, penned not by Johann Christoph Altnikol, but by his pupil, Johann Christoph Farlau (b. c.1735), based on recent findings of Peter Wollny. About 1756, Farlau was able to copy the now-lost autograph score of the 1729 SMP version at the Leipzig St. Thomas School. The Bach 1736 calligraphic score, in the possession of C.P.E. Bach in Berlin, was unavailable to copy. (NB: That early version autograph score probably was part of the collection of early versions of church music as well as motet parts sets Bach’s family donated to the St. Thomas School, along with the chorale cantata cycle parts sets, in the fall of 1750.) Farlau’s SMP copy was one of three presumed Bach Passions performed in Leipzig by Kantor Friedrich Doles, as recalled later by student Johann Friedrich Rochlitz. The other two “Bach” Passions in Doles’ possession were copies of the apocryphal St. Luke Passion, BWV 246, and the Passion oratorio, “Jesu, deine Passion,” later attributed to Weimar capellmeister Ernst Wilhelm Wolf (1735-1792).



Karol Berger. “There Is No Time Like God’s Time,” Chapter 3, in Bach’s Circle, Mozart’s Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press: 101-129.
In six strategic places in Bach’s SMP – also known as Wolff’s six dramatic “contemplations in dialogue form” (ref. No. 16) and Chafe’s meditative scenes on Heinrich Müller’s theme of Christ’s atonement (ref. No. 18) – Picander’s libretto names its symbolic speakers – the Daughter(s) of Zion and the Chorus of Believers or the Faithful. “Who are these figures and what is their role?” asks Berger. Crucial to understanding is the concept of the Passion topography of three hills in the Jerusalem area – Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives to the east, and Golgatha, to the west. Since Zion stands for the Temple of Jerusalem, “it is more than likely that for Picander and his audience, the Daughter of Zion was, proximately, a daughter of Jerusalem, a witness of the crucifixion, and, more generally, a daughter of the church – representing the individual member of the congregation – in dialogue with the Faithful, representation the congregation as a whole.” The Daughters in the opening chorus and the closings of Parts 1 and 2 are collective voices, a dramatic musical device.
On a symbolic or allegorical level, the “Daughters of Jerusalem” in “the traditional Christian allegorical reading of the Song of Solomon (alluded to in the opening choruses of both SMP parts) representing “the enamored maiden stood alternatively for Christ’s bride, for the church (as in Revelation 21.2, 9), and for the individual soul,” Berger points out. He suggests that “the dramaturgy of the Passion closely resembles that of the opera seria in its practice of punctuating the action, set as simple recitative, with reflective and fully developed numbers, mostly arias, in which the action halts to allow the passion aroused by the most recent event to be expressed. However, whereas in opera the job of passionate reflection is left to the protagonists of the drama, in the Passion the reflection comes from outside.”
Müller’s sermon theme of atonement is toned down in Picander’s libretto. Citing Elke Axmacher’s 1984 study, “Aus lieber will mein Heyland sterben” (From Love will my Savior perish), Berger says Picander’s text eliminates “all references to God’s wrath as the reason for the sacrifice [atonement], playing down God’s active role in the story, stressing Jesus’s humanity over his divinity, and concentrating on the loving, compassionate heart of the individual believer.” Berger also summarizes Melamed’s “The Double Chorus in J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 57: (2004), 3-50, in a footnote (p. 364).



John Butt. “Bach’s Passions and the Textures of Time,” in The Century of Bach and Mozart: Perspectives on Historiography, Composition, Theory and Performance. Edited by Sean Gallagher and Thomas Forrest Kelly. Cambridge MA. Harvard Publications in Music 22, Harvard University Press: 111-120.
Bach’s Passions embrace three different time frames, says English scholar and music director John Butt. These are “the actual events at the time of Christ’s Passion, the broader Lutheran heritage of the chorales, and the modern poetry from the Leipzig present.” Butt particularly cites studies of the SMP, Wolff’s “Bach’s Great Passion” and Chafe’s “Tonal Allegory.” Wolff calls the SMP opening chorus a “theological- eschatological” preface with its reference to Revelation in Picander’s text showing the vision of the “new Jerusalem ruled over by the lamb” (p. 111).
Wolff says that the lack of tonal closure “suggests that the work is in a sense intentionally incomplete and craving the completion of the resurrection,” says Butt. He cites Chafe (p. 113) that “Bach and his librettist were almost certainly working within a familiar tradition of Lutheran meditation, in which the exercise is designed to effect a real change of state,” “something clearly evident in the sermon tradition . . . (which) lay closely behind Picander’s Matthew libretto.” “117f). He cites Robin Leaver’s essay, “The Mature Vocal Works and Their Theological and Liturgical Context” in which the symmetry “may well relate also to the structure of the liturgy into which they are embedded” (Cambridge Companion to Bach, 1997: esp. 99-108. In the SMP, says Butt, “Christ’s divinity is revealed in stages, as if by a timetable,” that “in a more earth-bound sense of time may be more appropriate.”
The sense of time in the more episodic SJP Passion narrative is held together by a strong sense of symmetrical structure, called by various scholars “chiastic,” cross-like, or Herzstücke (heart-shaped sections) in mirror or palindrome order, a more pronounced artificial ordering or cohesion. In the SMP, the “sense of linear time is much stronger,” “not least in the shear scale of the work. There is also the background structure of meditation, which means that there are definite changes of mood, which are played out in the course of the piece. The opening chorus, like that of the SJP, contains references to broader arcs of time, yet musically it is more event-laden with changes of texture, dialogue chorale, and a shortened da capo. In all respects it sound a much more ‘modern’ piece with a sense of eventful linear motion.”
Besides an “overwhelming sense of change within broad circular time,” Butt says the SMP presents “the notion that the events are unique, occurring at one time and not another.” He cites the dropping of Christ’s accompanying string halo at the point of his final agony on the cross and the halo’s return in the final dialogue, beginning with the four principal singers and chorus of believers (no. 67, “And now the Lord is laid to rest).
In a footnote, Butt points out the SMP writings in Karol Berger’s Bach’s Cycle, Mozarts’s Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity. “I will address some of his interesting observations on the temporality of the SMP, particularly the first chorus, in my forthcoming book on Bach’s Passions.” 
(Butt's book, Bach's Dialogue With Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions, is due in 2009 from Cambridge Univ. Press.)



Michael Marrisen. “St. Matthew Passion,” in Bach’s Oratorios: The Parallel German-English Texts with Annotations. New York: Oxford University Press: 29-74.
Bach scholarship has produced definitive studies of biblical references in Bach’s cantatas, including Henry S. Drinker’s annotated translations of cantata texts and Ulrich Meyer’s book, “Biblical Quotation and Allusion in the Cantata Libretti of JSB” (London, Scarecrow Press, 1997).
In addition, C. S. Terry’s work on Bach’s Chorales and various studies of Lutheran theology and Bach’s library and their influences on Bach’s vocal music, as well as studies Friedrich Smend, Günther Stiller, Robin Leaver and others have begun to comprehend Bach use of texts as he then set them to music. Marissen takes a major step toward the biblical understanding of Bach’s lyric texts of the so-called Christological Cycle of oratorios of the 1730s. Accompanying his literal translations of Luther’s biblical translation and Picander’s interpretative lyrical texts are Marrisen’s exhaustive annotations of biblical scholasticism. Take the SMP opening chorus of the designated Daughters of Zion, misunderstood as Zion’s Daughter. Instead, they come from the Song of Songs 3:11 and are historical, allegorical figures lamenting Jesus’ Passion, representing the Bride (the Church) whose Bridegroom is Christ, as found in Matthew, Luke, and Galatians. This deeper understanding of the textual settings is explored by Bach scholar Stephen A. Crist, Emory University, in his abstract to “The Narrative Structure of J. S. Bach’s SMP,” a paper delivered at the 2008 biannual Conference of the American Bach Society, “Bach and the Oratorio Tradition.” Says Crist: “By sometimes going ‘against the grain’ of the narrative, Bach’s setting emphasizes moments and develops ideas that are glossed in other SMPs. These novel approaches the subdivision of the Biblical text, in turn, paved the way for some of Bach’s most profound musical utterances.”


Mar 6, 2009

David Glenn Lebut Jr., BCW, 3/6/2009. Additional source documentation, BWV 244: 1.) The Farlau score of BWV 244b; NBA II/5a and NBA II/5b. 2.) 1743-1746 Parts for BWV 244; the basis of most modern scores of BWV 244 (BC D 3b). 3.) 1742 Score of BWV 244; is the autograph score extant. 4.) 1829, 1843 Score of BWV 244 (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy version); can be found (amongst other places) in the Bibliothek der Sing-Akademie Berlin and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit der Mendelssohn-Archiv.
Recordings: Butt's recording is of the 1742 version, the majority of the recordings are of the 1743-1746 version, and the Fassolis and Spering recordings are of the last (1843) Mendelssohn version. Actually, there are three recordings of BWV 244b (BC D 3a), two of which can only be bought directly from the ensembles featured (the ones you mentioned). The third one could be purchased either from Rondeau Productions,, or, and features the Thomanerchor Leipzig and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig led by Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller. It was released two years ago. You could also find at the same places their recent recording (last year) of BWV 245 (BC D 2d)--the 1749 version of the Johannes-Passion.

Prepared and contributed by William Hoffman (April 2009)

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman]


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