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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by John Butt
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Butt & Guttenberg in BWV 244

Jens Laurson wrote (January 12, 2009):
Dear Gentlemen, dear Lady (we haven't got more than one, do we? If so, apologies up-front.)

I wrote a review of two relatively recent MPs -- and I wanted to run it by the esteemed scholars and Bach-lovers in this group first, to gather comments, criticism, and corrections. I'd be much obliged if you should take the time to read this "with a red pen in mind", but also with your usual level of benevolence. Unfortunately formatting (esp. italics) was lost in transfer... and a few sentences were (because poorly) written to be read with emphasis especially indicated. Hopefully not too greatly a detriment.

-------
Last year, two very remarkable recordings of the Matthew Passion have come across my desk-and remarkable in very different ways. There is the strict one voice per part (OVPP) 1742 "final performing version" Matthew Passion with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort & Players (Linn CKD 313 SACD) and then the "maverick" Matthew Passion of Enoch zu Guttenberg with his Choral Society Neubeuern and KlangVerwaltung Orchestra (Farao 108 035).

John Butt's is not the first Matthew Passion that uses OVPP-Paul McCreesh has already done that. But it is the first one to use the (ca.)1742 version that Bach presumably used in his last performance of the "big Passion" as Bach always referred to it. On the OVPP question: The sophisticated conjecture about Bach having, or even wanting, just one voice per part in his Matthew Passion can be followed in the writings of Joshua Rifkin. I have not yet read an argument (either pro- or contra-OVPP) that didn't willfully ignore information suggesting the opposite from their held beliefs, or massage the evidence to necessarily support their side when it might support it possibly at best. I find it curious, though, that Bach should have wanted the big Passion" sung with one voice per part (OVPP), while the St. John Passion's surviving performing material indicates at least two voices per part.

Ultimately I don't care-as long as the performance is enjoyable or revealing. The Historically Informed Performance movement has brought us many such performances and should be welcomed by all music lovers with open arms. As long as its 'extreme fringes' don't become the new orthodox, inflexible standard by which to perform Bach (or all baroque music) which would leave some of the greatest music ever written the prerogative of specialist groups, HIP only enriches our musical experience. John Butt notably, laudably states precisely that in his generally incisive liner notes: "Trying to follow Bach's vocal scoring and the instrumentation of his last performance is not done in the name of a sort of pious literalism that condemns every other approach to the realm of inauthenticity... [H]istorical details might begin to seem rather trivial if the performance reveals this work to provide a musical experience that is almost on the threshold of what is emotionally bearable." He legitimately hopes that his performance provides that experience, but the ambition is expertly clad in humility.

Upon first listening, the Dunedin Matthew Passion did precisely what John Butt must have set out to achieve. Hugely impressive for its combination of thrust and clarity, the invigorating play of the Dunedin Consort & Players manage to have instrumental and vocal strands appear where all-too often they become part of a greater 'sound'. This is nouvelle cuisine compared the cuisine classique of decades past or the musical curry that those conductors have made of the Matthew Passion, who performed in the tradition of the massive oratorios. Outstanding, apart from the ever lively playing, are also the superb basses (a sonorous, richly wonderful Jesus in Matthew Brook, Brian Bannatyne-Scott who is simply terrific in "Gerne will ich mich bequemen", Roderick Bryce who makes Judas rather appealing), and Evangelist Nicholas Mulroy-eminently worth hearing.

Unfortunately, there are also a significant amount of shortcomings that become increasingly obvious with repeat listening. For one, the female voices are less pleasant than the male, notable in the opening "chorus" where they stand out unpleasantly. Particularly unpleasant is alto Clare Wilkinson. Right off the bat the first "kla-a-a-a-a-gen" (note esp. bar 24) is most unfortunate sounding. Soprano I Susan Hamilton is better, but sounds-for better or worse-like a treble most of the time. The interpolating "Wen, Wie, Was, Wohin?" questions from the second choir sound more like pecked interruptions than questions that stipulate the answer of the first choir.

Jesus' aria "Trinket alle daraus; das ist mein Blut" is fleet, and has the dance-y touch to it that makes this performance so airy, but at the cost of being less touching than it could be. There are also the odd moments of funny accentuation in the Butt recording-for example "Aber nicht wie ich WILL, sondern wie du WILLST" (instead of "Aber nicht wie ICH will, sondern wie DU willst"). But then "Welchen ich kuessen werde, der ists!" is done extremely well-both as regards the pronunciation and the way it is spoken, more than sung. The orchestra and combined voices in "Sind Blitze, sind Donner..." manage for something that is terribly exhilarating, as long as it is not dissected. Here, like in many parts of this performance, the whole becomes much more than the sum of its parts, simply because a few of the parts taken on their own are rather un-lovely. Ironically the Butt-Passion, offering so much focus and detail, moves from "interesting" to splendid only once you take the focus away from it. In that sense, 'just listening to it' is a far greater joy than reviewing it, score in hand. If you don't get stuck quibbling on these various issues (chances are you won't on hearing it the first few times), the surprising and fresh sweep of the opening carries you with the performance far into part one.

The musical difference of the 1742 version to BWV 244 is insignificant (compared to BWV 244b or some of the different St.John Passion versions). The difference in scoring (harpsichord instead of organ as the basso continuo instrument for the second choir-in any case a change more likely born out of necessity than desire) has been replicated in plenty other recordings, HIP and non-HIP alike. The recording quality and sound of this Linn disc is, as usual with this audiophile label, stupendous.

On my "Easter Pilgrimage" last year, I heard Enoch zu Guttenberg's Matthew Passion on the Munich leg of the tour. Guttenberg and his Neubeuern Choir are a local musical force, much loved and admired in the region. His pick-up band, which he coyly named "SoundAdministration Orchestra", consists of members of the best European orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw, et al.) and local players-including soloists from the Munich Philharmonic and the Rosamunde String Quartet. Guttenberg's performance of the Matthew Passion around Easter are an institution, known to be consistently individual, 'unique' interpretations. When I sat in the Philharmonic Hall on Good Friday to listen to what was my fourth Matthew Passion in six days, I spectacularly failed to get it.

Part of the problem: I listened lazily. I didn't participate; I simply wanted to let the music do the work of enthralling me. A miscalculation, as it turned out, because as I did not bother with the text, the musical choices of Guttenberg ended up annoying me to no end. Unable or unwilling to put them in context, I found the interpretation awkward, the performance disappointed me, and that disappointment angered me.

A few weeks after Easter I was sent the Guttenberg 2003 recording (apparently just now issued or re-issued outside Germany by Farao). Knowing several expert ears to be very fond of Guttenberg's very particular interpretation, I had the chance to give it another try, to give it its due time, respect, and engagement. That made all the difference.

Guttenberg's version might well remain controversial to many lis. Uninitiated listening might have it seem that when Guttenberg passes the chalice, he hands it over with a cup of crazy. But it isn't that simple and it wouldn't be doing the performance justice to declare it wilfully romantic or completely over the top. There is rhyme and reason to all he does. Not only that, as a musical interpretation of the gospel of St.Matthew, it becomes one of the great Matthew Passion recordings there are.

Whatever Guttenberg does in the Matthew Passion, he does not out of a sense of license or sheer, unmotivated exuberance-but out of a sense of duty to the text and Bach, and the impression the Matthew Passion must presumably have made on the original audience. The cry "Barabas", for example, is not a short, punctuated staccato interruption, it is an extended, surprisingly slow and devastatingly disturbing cry that tears through the fabric of the music, analogous to the when the veil in the temple is torn as Jesus dies on the cross. The dissonant chord which, to our ears is no longer shriekingly dissonant, is played out so harrowingly that the dissonance is again audible.

The chorale "Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden" initially sounded dour to my ears-now I find it as touching as could be, because I hear in it the utter reluctance to part. The whiplash of the continuo string instruments and the frenzied violins in the recitative "Erbarm es Gott!" depicts the beating of Christ about as vividly as the Mel Gibson film.

The overly enunciated chorale "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" irritated me in the live performance. Musically, I'm still not particularly fond of the hacked-off stop-and-go performance the choir turns in. But realizing how this symbolizes the broken bones of Christ, how he has suffered, and suffers under his wounds does make it a truly, appropriately pitiful moment. If the interpretive device with which Guttenberg conveys that scene isn't actually very pleasant, well... neither is the scene he depicts.

The coup of Guttenberg's interpretation of the Matthew Passion is that he elevates-or rather: uncovers and restores-the climax of Matthew's gospel as the highpoint of Bach's work. It's often missed because it is so short, but it's unmissable in the story. It is at Matthew 27:54 and part 63b (NBA) in Bach, when at the end of the crucifixion scene, after the gruesome death of Jesus and the ensuing earthquake, the rough heathen Roman executioners and their captain (of all people!) are the first to grasp the meaning of what has happened before them. Their hearts change and they acknowledge ("Due chori in unisono"): "Truly... truly: this was the Son of God." (Notably, it's the only time Bach lets both choirs sing unisono.)

Two bars, not even 20 notes-but here elevated to the pinnacle of the whole work. Forty (!) seconds so intense, so heartfelt, so earnestly passionate, that absolutely without fail I tear up every time I hear it.

Guttenberg 's Matthew Passion is a religious one. In the extensive interview included in the liner notes, he may admit to knowing no better than the next guy whether God exists or not, but declares his love for the gospel of Matthew and-this is crucial-how he puts the text of the gospel above the music. As a Bavarian (Upper Franconian) Catholic, emotionality is important to Guttenberg, and conveying the emotion of the gospel by whatever means (including HIP methods) is his sole goal. The result is an utterly baroque reading of BWV 244.

I like to imagine how a few Bach lovers who appreciate the work of Rifkin, McCreesh, or Junghanel roll their eyes at this, exclaiming how the last thing they need is a "baroque" reading of Bach... before becoming aware of the inherent absurdity of that sentiment.

But of course emotionality in the 21st century is different from Bach's time, our ears perceive music differently, and the means to recreate a reaction to the text of the gospel will have to be different, too. We will never know how Bach's performances sounded, much less how he wanted them to sound and why. Chances are it sounded
much more like Butt's version (except not nearly as good) than Guttenberg's. And yet Guttenberg might be closer to Bach than Butt in the way he presents the Matthew Passion.

Of course Bach's Matthew Passion could just be taken as a piece of music. Indeed, the miracle of the Matthew Passion is how great it is, even if we don't 'experience' it. That even the naked music of the Matthew Passion will move us, faithful or faithless. Perhaps not to our every core, but substantially still. But to be moved truly, one needs to partake and understand what Bach says or what Bach gives voice to. Because the Matthew Passion has, in and of itself, meaning, it ought not only be listened to, but experienced, too.

Guttenberg's interpretation redirects us toward that meaning, but it also profits from knowing it in the first place. A sensitive soul may intuitively get Guttenberg's musical explanations of the text, but that means that knowing the text is a prerequisite. It is, incidentally, the only prerequisite. Belief is not - because the Passion's meaning is independent of belief or faith. Neither Guttenberg's performance nor this review is an attempt to proselytize, merely a call to understanding Bach's music beyond the notes.

Even if you accept all of this, it need not mean that you have to like the interpretation, musically. After all, the intention, good as it may be, isn't all-important to the result. But it is important enough-especially in a work like the Matthew Passion-not to be separated. If you don't separate it, then the Guttenberg recording becomes deserving of our utmost attention and benevolence. And it will, if approached like this, reward generously-through Bach-in ways that musically smoother and less controversial recordings will not.

John Butt's version is exhilarating on first impression-and exhilarating it remains in many ways. But its flaws (flaws to my ears, at least) become more notable upon repeat listening, and less easy to ignore. Put in the proper context, Gutenberg's interpretation becomes one of the most intensely felt and thoughtful Matthew Passions. Neither account would be a natural 'first or only recording recommendation'. But for those who love the work and exploring it in all its facets, both are essential. For anyone who cares about the Matthew Passion beyond the notes on the staves, Guttenberg's Matthew Passion is particularly warmly recommended. [endofarticle]

Uri Golomb wrote (January 12, 2009):
A response to just one point -- I might come back for more later:

Jens Laurson wrote:
< I find it curious, though, that Bach should have wanted the big Passion" sung with one voice per part (OVPP), while the St. John Passion's surviving performing material indicates at least two voices per part. >
Actually, it makes perfect sense. the SJP and the SMP were written for roughly THE SAME VOCAL FORCES: two one-per-part choirs (each choir consisting of one soprano, one alto, one tenor, and one bass) doing the bulk of the work, and a few "bit" singers doing small roles (e.g., Judas, Pilatus), but NOT participating in the choruses and chorales, nor singing any of the recits and arias. The difference is deployment. In the SMP, the first choir were concertists (singing both the solo numbers -- recitatives, arias, and the roles of Evangelist and
Christus -- and the choral numbers), whereas the second choir were ripienists: with few exceptions, all they did was double the first choir in the choruses and chorales. Also, no member of the second choir was given a soloist's role (i.e., a recitative, arioso or aria). In the SMP, on the other hand, the second choir was given a more independent role -- Bach gave them their own choral parts in several numbers (including the first and last chorus, and several arias, where they sung as a group responding to one or two singers from the first choir); and each member of the second choir was given at least one solo aria. Even here, though, the choirs are not equals: choir 1 is still given a more prominent role than choir 2, both in terms of its work within the choruses, and in terms of the number of solo ngiven to each of its members. the Evangelist and Christus are also members of choir 1, not choir 2.

In short, the SJP was written for four concertists + four ripienists, whereas the SMP was written for two groups of 4 concertists, equal in number though not in importance. The sum total in both cases is eight singers (plus "bit" singers); the difference is in the division of labour. Also, in the SJP one orchestra accompanies both choirs, whereas in the SMP Bach eventually split the orchestra, so that each choir had its own instrumental support. Thus, the SMP does requires more players than the SJP.

All this is perfectly consistent with the designation "Great Passion" for SMP: those words could easily refer to the length of the work, its complexity or its difficulty, rather than the size of the forces (and, as noted, it does require a larger orchestra than the SJP).

John Pike wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To Jens Laurson] Many thanks. I greatly enjoyed reading these two reviews. I love the Butt recording. I don't know the Guttenburg recording but now feel I definitely should get it.

To my mind, the only weakness in your review is the last line; it seems to me a bit bland, a bit of an anticlimax after what precedes it.

Last night, I watched a DVD of the SJP (1725 version). It always seems to me, as a Christian, that watching or listening to a recording or performance of any of Bach's great religious works is to participate in an act of worship, if you are a Christian. Sadly, that act of worship was disturbed by a telephone call; such interruptions can really spoil the atmosphere.

John Pike wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To Uri Golmb] What an extremely helpful and clear posting.

I suspect the term "Great Passion" (and the phrase was used by Bach's own family, I think) could also refer to the sheer quality of the music. I regard both the SMP and SJP as monumnetal works of the most extraordinary genius, but I believe the SMP is even finer than the SJP. It is, indeed, my favourite piece of music of all time; I prefer it even to the MBM, since it includes so many human emotions with which we are all familiar...it is a work of truly universal relevance, whatever one's spiritual viewpoint.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 12, 2009):
Jens Laurson wrote:
>Dear Gentlemen, dear Lady (we haven't got more than one, do we? If so, apologies up-front.)<
I do not know the overall total, but there are three who wrote introductions in 2008: Jean, Therese, and Terejia. Nevertheless, I am sure that one (Jean), at least, will notice and appreciate the gesture of inclusiveness!

I have not yet read your draft reviews, but I do note the request for editorial comments. That is unprecedented on BCML in my experience, congratulations for even thinking about editing! Did I say unprecedented? There is the occasional misinterpretation when someone mis-spells my name as ed rather than Ed.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski & Jens Laurson] This particular post escaped my attention (when was it sent?), but thanks for the inclusion...

Thanks also for the previous nice words from Ed about feminine contributions.

Answering to Aryeh, I have enjoyed being discussion leader, although I focused more on writing introductions than on "leading" the discussions, which generally seemed to go well with only a few interventions. I have learned a lot in the process, as I read several excellent books to prepare them. I was also amazed by the amount of knowledge gathered on this list. Musically, it was also a particular experience as I did barely know the cantatas I was in charge of presenting. BWV 118 will remain a fabulous discovery...

Only thing, one must be aware that writing introductions for such a dedicated list may require a lot of preparation, at least it did for me who had much to learn...

Sorry I do not write often for the moment, but I will be moving next month and I do not have much spare time.

I wish nonetheless all members of the list much happiness in 2009.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 12, 2009):
Uri Golmb wrote:
>In short, the SJP was written for four concertists + four ripienists, whereas the SMP was written for two groups of 4 concertists, equal in number though not in importance. The sum total in both cases is eight singers (plus "bit" singers); the difference is in the division of labour. Also, in the SJP one orchestra accompanies both choirs, whereas in the SMP Bach eventually split the orchestra, so that each choir had its own instrumental support. Thus, the SMP does requires more players than the SJP<.
See Daniel Melamed, <Hearing Bachs Passions>, for the details, and logic that is irrefutable, at least to this non-specialist.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks, Ed, for mentioning Melamed's book, which indeed elucidates in detail many of the points I briefly mentioned here. I read, and reviewed, this book, and I should have mentioned it in my own post: the point about the inequality of the two SMP choirs, in particular, is one that he stresses.

There is an article by Melamed on the Goldberg website (the journal, sadly, ceased publication in December; but its website is still active), which summarizes quite well the main points in his book: http://tinyurl.com/yu25kh

This links leads to the first page; the summary on the vocal forces runs from p. 3 to p. 5 in the online version.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 12, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Also, in the SJP one orchestra accompanies both choirs, whereas in the SMP Bach eventually split the orchestra, so that each choir had its own instrumental support. Thus, the SMP does requires more players than the SJP<.
Has anyone read John Butt's book on the SMP? Evidently he makes the argument that the SMP does not have a true antiphonal layout with double orchestra, choir and soloists, but a rather single performing body with concertists and ripienists.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 12, 2009):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< There is an article by Melamed on the Goldberg website (the journal, sadly, ceased publication in December; but its website is still active), which summarizes quite well the main points in his book: >
Thanks Uri. This article discusses the concept of the SMP as having a riepinist/concertist layout as well.

Jens Laurson wrote (January 12, 2009):
John Pike wrote:
< Many thanks. I greatly enjoyed reading these two reviews. I love the Butt recording. The only weakness in your review is the last line; it seems to me a bit bland, a bit of an anticlimax after what precedes it. >
Absolutely right. Lobbed it off. Thanks for reading & the kind words.

Jens Laurson wrote (January 12, 2009):
John Pike wrote:
< What an extremely helpful and clear posting.
I suspect the term "Great Passion" (and the phrase was used by Bach's own family, I think) could also refer to the sheer quality of the music. >
Thanks much to Uri, indeed! Very welcome reply and certainly food for thought.

Re: "Great Passion" -- we should not make the mistake of taking the English phrase for a ride of its several (English) meanings. "Great" is a very different, much less narrowly defined word than "Grosse" in German. "Die Grosse Passion" either refers to the Book of the Gospel (in Latin, of course) including series of 12 woodcuts by Duerer (with which JSB was undoubtedly familiar)... or it means "large" or "grand". Not "long" nor "qualitatively great".

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2009):
Uri replied (to ?)
>Point taken. The fact remains, however, that the SMP is on a grander scale in any quantitative measure (including the number of performers) than the SJP, even if the vocal forces are one-per-part; and the use of a the second choir as a semi-independent group does create a more lavish impression than employing them as a group of ripienists, as in the SJP.<
Perhaps more significantly, if less precisely, the family used the word <great> (grosse?) to distinguish, to single out, the SMP from the other passions.

William Hoffman wrote (January 13, 2009):
Douglas Cowling asks:
< Has anyone read John Butt's book on the SMP? Evidently he makes the argument that the SMP does not have a true antiphonal layout with double orchestra, choir and soloists, but a rather single performing body with concertists and ripienists. >
William Hoffman replies: I believe it is a concept articulated by Melamed both in his SMP writings, "Hearings Bach's Passions" and the periodical update. I also recall he emphasized this again at last year's American Bach Society meeting on Bach's oratorios in a lively interplay with George Stauffer and Christoph Wolf.

Butt's book is due out this year

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2009):
William Hoffman replies:
>I believe it is a concept articulated by Melamed both in his SMP writings, "Hearings Bach's Passions" and the periodical update. I also recall he emphasized this again at last year's American Bach Society meeting on Bach's oratorios in a lively interplay with George Stauffer and Christoph Wolff.<
Was there any challenge to Melameds conclusions, which strike me (as a thoughtful listener and reader) as rock solid (built on Petrus?)? Or was it just a bunch of academics making nice.

William Hoffman wrote (January 13, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Was there any challenge to Melameds conclusions, which strike me (as a thoughtful listener and reader) as rock solid (built on Petrus?)? Or was it just a bunch of academics making nice. >
William Hoffman replies: With Howard Cox and Robin Leaver in attendance, as well as the fresh female faces of Carol Baron (Bach's Changing World) , Mary Dalton Greer (About Bach ed.), and Kerala J. Snyder (Buxtehude), it was a wide-ranging discussion on Bach's oratorios. It included talk about the canticle of Moses and Miriam, Bach's Calov note about the 8-part chorus, and Handel's double choruses in OT works, especially Israel in Egypt. That's when Melamed (accent on second syllable, "la"), pointed out what is now fairly obvious re. the choral double forces in the SMP.

Several sources (Schweitzer, Steinetz, Smend, Chafe, Brainard) previously have noted Bach's use of pseudo eight-voice, motet-style turbae (crowd) choruses in the SMP, which begin with eight voices (usually Christ's antagonists) and become four voices as the law or prophecy is sung in resolution.

Another main theme that was sounded re. the SMP Oratorio Passion was the sermon influences from Bach's library, as previously brought out by Leaver and Elke Axmacher.

Also, Wolf gave a well-attended public lecture, "Are Bach's Oratorios Sacred Operas," with a conclusive, emphatic "yes"! It began with the Hamburg Opera works of Keiser and others as well as the Dresden Opera and then brought out elements in both the SJP and SMP as well as BWV 248, BWV 249, and BWV 11. Incidentally, there is a new book, Michael Marissen's <Bach Oratorios: The Parallel German-English Texts with Annotations> covering those five plus the SMkP. Very timely!

The major contribution to the SMP was Stephen Crist's paper, "The Narrative Structure of J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion." It was most informative, examining the placement of reflective movements (also compared in Marissen's book), in the tradition of other 17th and 18th century SMP treatments by German composers (Sebastiani to Bruhns). What Crist revealed was the special placement by Bach and Picander "against the grain" of traditional interpolative placement that then "develops ideas that are glossed over" previously and "pave the way for some of Bach's most profound musical utterances" (quoting from Crist's printed abstract).

John Butt's book, <Bach's Dialogue With Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions,> is due this year from Cambridge Univ. Press.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 13, 2009):
Thomas Braatz contributed a biographical article on Theodor Christlieb Reinhold(t) (from the Grove Music Online), which is very appropriate for the current discussion centered on the SMP, the size of choirs, and the placement thereof. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Reinhold-Theodor-Christlieb.htm

Thomas Braatz also writes:

Johann Sebastian Bach received his official title as Court Composer (document signed and dated) Dresden, November 19, 1736 and gave an organ recital at the Frauenkirche in Dresden on December 1. The new Silbermann organ had been officially consecrated on November 25, 1736. For this occasion Reinholdt wrote a poem in which he refers to J. S. Bach's organ playing: "Der hochbeliebte Bach | Regt Fuß und Finger so, daß beydes Ohr und Augen | Lust und Verwunderung aus der Bewegung saugen,." ("The beloved Bach moves his feet and fingers in such a way that both your ears and eyes can derive pleasure and astonishment from the way he moves them..").

J. S. Bach was instrumental in helping his son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, obtain the position of organist at the Sophienkirche in Dresden. This church also had a Silbermann organ. W.F. Bach held a position there as organist (only for the "old church services) from August 1, 1733. He resigned from this position on January 21, 1746.

[Comment: It is worth pondering the size of Reinholdt's 'choir'. I do not have the exact quotation in German of the statement referred to by Härtwig and John, but I suspect that it was "Chor" which as we know from Bach's documents can mean both instrumentalists and singers unless otherwise specified. Reinholdt's use of the term "Kurrende" is not comparable to Bach's situation in Leipzig. In the latter instance, the Kurrende were selected from the 'choirs' and were not a separate group as indicated by Härtwig/John. For volunteer singers, Reinholdt had to turn to singers outside of the church. These probably came from various professions or held non-music-related jobs in and outside of the Dresden Court. Compared to the pool of university students upon which Bach could call in Leipzig, Reinholdt's volunteers may not have been of the same high quality musically. Unfortunately, there is no detailed description of how many students were performing on instruments or how many might have been 'sitting on the sidelines' while only a quartet or octet of singers were performing. On the surface it would appear that most, if not all, of the forces indicated were involved in the performances of festive music on a grand scale. Would not Bach in the great commercial center of Leipzig with its fairs not be able to perform his festive compositions with comparably large musical forces?

Similar to Bach, Reinhold was also school teacher and held music positions that involved a number of churches. Reinhold was responsible for music at the Sophien-, Frauen-, and Kreuzkirche in Dresden.

The experimentation with the placement of separate choirs within the church in order to achieve special effects might somehow be linked to the division employed by Bach in his later revisions of the St. Matthew Passion. It might also imply that a greater distance between the musical units performing a large, concerted choral work can be assumed as more probable rather than a closer proximity between the choirs and instrumental groups (This type of positioning would be more in line with the suggestions made by Michael Praetorius a century earlier.) ]

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2009):
I wrote:
>Or was it just a bunch of academics making nice.<
William Hoffman replies:
> With Howard Cox and Robin Leaver in attendance, as well as the fresh female faces of Carol Baron (Bach's Changing World) , Mary Dalton Greer (About Bach ed.), and Kerala J. Snyder (Buxtehude), it was a ranging discussion on Bach's oratorios.<
EM:
Thanks to Will for the reply. i realize my original comment could be misinterpreted as demeaning to acadmemics being agreeable. Nothing could be further from the truth. I suppose there is a certain amount of <scratch my back, and Ill scratch yours>, (see the disdain for peer review which crops up everywhere in the BCW, for example). In my experience, academic backbiting is far more prevalent than friendly scratching. I will not even get into the more aggressive <scratching> which just popped into my mind. Sorry, I cannot help it, stuff happens.

I wonder if the derivation of making nice is a pun, or misunderstanding, of the Sharks line from West Side Story: <We dont want to make knives with him. We just want to talk to him.> Hope I got that quote right, from memory. Discussion/correction welcome.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2009):
Melameds text [was Butt &...]

In response to an off-list request, I repeat Uri's link to Melamed, in case others have lost it, as well.
>There is an article by Melamed on the Goldberg website (the journal, sadly, ceased publication in December; but its website is still active), which summarizes quite well the main points in his book:<
http://tinyurl.com/yu25kh

Full disclosure: I did not personally access this site, as I have read the book in traditional format. Someone did report accesssing it successfully, I believe. If there are any difficulties, I suggest directing them to Uri on-list for assistance, as this is likely to be a topic many BCML participants should address (unless they prefer to rave like spinning windmills, inviting the Dons inevitable, playful, tilting at them).

Uri Golomb wrote (January 12, 2009):
Jens Laurson wrote:
< Re: "Great Passion" -- we should not make the mistake of taking the English phrase for a ride of its several (English) meanings. "Great" is a very different, much less narrowly defined word than "Grosse" in German. "Die Grosse Passion" either refers to the Book of the Gospel (in Latin, of course) including series of 12 woodcuts by Duerer (with which JSB was undoubtedly familiar)... or it means "large" or "grand". Not "long" nor "qualitatively great". >
Point taken. The fact remains, however, that the SMP is on a grander scale in any quantitative measure (including the number of performers) than the SJP, even if the vocal forces are one-per-part; and the use of a the second choir as a semi-independent group does create a more lavish impression than employing them as a group of ripienists, as in the SJP.

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | 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 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | 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 - R. Chailly | 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 - S. Rattlr | 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
Articles:
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] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

John Butt: Short Biography | Dunedin Consort | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Discussions of Vocal Recordings:
BWV 232 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - J. Butt
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Bach Organ Toccatas & Schubler Chorales from John Butt | New JSB Organ Recordings
Books:
Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in the Primary Sources of J. S. Bach | The Cambridge Companion to Bach

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Last update: June 1, 2010 09:30:20