Matthäus-Passion BWV 244General Discussions - Part 15
Continue from Part 14
Discussion ion the Weeks April 12+19, 2009
William Hoffman wrote (April 10, 2009):
BWV 244 SMP: Intro. 9 pp.
BWV 244: St. Matthew Passion, Intro.
On Good Friday afternoon, April 11, 1727, the bells at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig began to ring at 1:15 p.m. The congregation of as many as 3,000 assembled and the Vespers service with its simple liturgical form began at 1:45 p.m. The service order, according to C. S. Terry's <Bach, the Passions>, was probably:
Ancient Passion hymn "Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund" (There Jesus on the cross hung);
Part 1 of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew;
Hymn "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (O Lamb of God, guiltless), the text being the metrical version of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) written by Nikolaus Decius (1531);
Pulpit hymn "Herr Jesus Christ, dich zu uns wend" (Lord Jesus Christ, Thee to us turn around);
Part 2 of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew;
Motet such as Jacob Gallus' "Ecce quomodo moritur Justus" (Behold how dies the righteous);
Passion Collect intoned;
Rinhart's hymn "Nun danket alle Gott" (Now thank we all Our God);
(The hymn "O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid" (O darkest woe, o heart's pain) followed the motet, according to Johann Christoph Rosten, St. Thomas sexton.)
Introduced in 1727, Bach's St. Matthew Passion (SMP), BWV 244b, would become the pinnacle of his achievement in the oratorio Passion form as well as his musical legacy. It was the central segment of his rich Passion mosaic, a pillar of his "well-ordered church music to the glory of God." At the height of his creative powers, Bach was surmounting the various inherent challenges: unified libretto (by Picander) with dramatic commentary choruses, arias, and ariosi (accompanied recitatives); engaging narration of the entire Matthew Passion Gospel account, Chapters 26 and 27; and a dozen Lutheran hymns, including five settings of "The Passion Chorale," "Herzlich tut mich verlangen," best known in English as "O sacred head now wounded."
Bach in 1727 was actually at the mid-point in the creation of this Passion. It began in 1724 just after the initial presentation of his first annual Leipzig oratorio Passion account, the St. John Passion (SJP), BWV 245, and achieved virtual completion in 1729. The five-year effort was matched by the scope of the work, setting to music the longest and deepest of the four Gospel accounts. In the process Bach would produce a work of great scale, resources, and demands while challenging the sensitivities and sensibilities of the Leipzig congregation.
When Bach in 1723 assumed the post of cantor and director of music in Leipzig at age 38, the Passion stage was set, so to speak, or the dye -- or mold -- already cast. Beginning in 1721 with his predecessor, Johann Kuhnau, a modern oratorio Passion based on one of the four Gospel stories would be presented at the Good Friday Vesper service at the St. Thomas Church. Beginning in 1724, the annual Passion presentation would alternate at the other main Church, St. Nicholas.
Bach was well-prepared to meet the challenge. He had achieved the first two of what would be five phases in his oratorio Passion composition: introduction, 1700 to 1708, and key statement or dictum, 1708-1717, in Weimar. At Leipzig, he pursued the proposition with his St. John Passion, made full application of the statement with his St. Matthew Passion; and concluded, summarized the dictum, in his St. Mark Passion, BWV 247, in 1731.
The introductory period brought Bach the Passion literary sources found primarily in Hamburg involving the poets Postel, Hunold, and Brockes; the chorale-rich Lutheran tradition; and two substantial cantatas for memorial services at Mühlhausen, BWV 106, "God's Time Is the Best Time," and BWV 131, "Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee, O Lord."
The key statement phase in Weimar involved Bach presenting a performance of Keiser's "St. Mark Passion" in 1713 and his own "Weimar-Gotha" oratorio Passion oratorio in 1717. Only the core lyrical music survives: two chorale choruses, three arias, and a plain chorale, plus, possibly, a three-movement sequence (arioso-aria-chorale) found in Cantata BWV 55. Meanwhile, Bach mastered the art of modern Italian cantata composition, featuring lyric choruses, arias and ariosi, in his church-service cantatas which were designed as musical sermons on the Gospel and Epistle lessons for the day.
Four months prior to taking his Leipzig post, Bach presented two major pre-Passion cantatas, BWV 22 and 23, for his successful probe or audition, on February 7, 1723, Quinquageisma estomihi Sunday, on the eve of the Lent season. Creatively, the post, which he assumed in late May 1723, involved Bach presenting cantatas for some 60 annual church-year services and the annual Passion on Good Friday.
Ten months later, on April 7, 1724, Bach presented his St. John Passion oratorio, a major work with entirely new music, composed primarily during the preceding two months of Lent. Bach's Passion setting of John's Gospel, followed by Matthew's, were probably determined by tradition and practice. Prior to Kuhnau's 1721 inaugural oratorio Passion setting, in lieu of the Passion Gospel read in the main services on Palm (Passion) Sunday and Good Friday, the Mathew and John Passions, respectively, were sung (chanted), based on music in congregational hymn books, says Günther Stiller in <Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.> Thus Bach was following Lutheran musical and liturgical tradition.
Since the John and Matthew oratorio Passion musical settings contain the full biblical texts, the reading or chanting of the Gospels was eliminated from the Good Friday Vesper service. Further, John's and Matthew's accounts embody two distinct Lutheran theological concepts. John's non-synoptic Passion story represents the Christus Victor theme of the triumphal, sacrificial Savior and covers only Christ's trials and Crucifixion. Matthew, one of three similar synoptic (read-together) Gospel accounts, represents Anselm's 11th century concept of Christ's death as atonement for humanity's sins and human redemption, achieved through Anselm's "satisfaction" theory of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God. This concept is demonstrated in the synoptic accounts of the symbolic Last Supper and suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, preceding the trials and Crucifixion.
Following the initial performance in 1727, Bach further refined his St. Matthew Passion, particularly as a dramatic entity, expanding the number of interpolative movements as well as performing forces. Another feature was his use of dance-style in his so-called madriaglian or figural music. Dance influences in the SMP, says Fincke-Hecklinger, <Dance character in the Vocal Music of JSB>, involve 11 of 30 movements.
BWV 244 Madrigalian Movements [Nos. -- 9(5) BGA(NBA)]
1. Chorale chorus, "Kommt ihr Töchter/O Lamm Gottes" (pastorale) CD1
9(5). Arioso, "Du lieber Heiland" (Franck infl.)
10(6). Aria, "Buss und Reu" (passepied-minuet)
12(8) Aria, "Blute nur, du liebes Herz" SAC
18(12). Arioso, "Wiewohl, mein Herz in Tränen schwimmt"
19(13). Aria: "Ich will dir mein Herz schenken" (passepied-minuet)
25(19). Arioso "O Schmerz, hier zittert das gequälte Herz" CD2
26(20). Aria, "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen" CD2
28(22). Arioso, "Der Heiland fällt vor seinen Vater nieder" PC
29(23). Aria, "Gerne will ich mich bequemen" (passepied-minuet)
33(27a). Duet w/Chorus., "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen/Lasst ihn" CD3
33(27b). Chor, "Sind Blitze, sind Donner (gigue)" CD3
35(29). Chorale Chorus: "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß"
36(30). Aria w/Chorus, "Ach, nun ist mein Jesus hin/Wo ist denn" CD4
40(34). Arioso, "Mein Jesus schweigt"
41(35). Aria, "Geduld! Wenn mich falsche Zugen stechen"
47(39). Aria, "Erbarme dich, mein Gott" SAC
51(42). Aria: "Gebt mir meinen Jesus wieder" (gavotte) SAC
57(48). Arioso: "Er hat uns allen wohl getan" PC
58(49). Aria. "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben" (sarabande)
60(51). Arioso, "Erbarmes Gott" PC
61(52). Aria, "Können Tränen meiner Wangen" (sarabande)
65(56). Arioso, "Ja! Freilch will in uns das Fleisch"
66(57). Aria, "Komm, süsses Kreuz"
69(59). Arioso, "Ach Golgatha" PC CD5
70(60). Aria w/chorus., "Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand/Wohin?" CD5
74(64). Arioso, "Am Abend da es kühle war" (Franck infl.)
75(65). Aria, "Mache dich, mien herze, rein (pastorale)
77(67). Arioso, "Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht CD6
78(68). Chorus, Wir setzen uns (sarabande) BWV997/2 CD6
*Drama: CD=Contemplative Dialogue, SAC=Stand-Alone (aria) Contemplation, PC=(arioso) Personal Contemplation (Wolff, SMP Notes)
3. Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen (Herzliebster Jesu)
16(10). Ich bins, ich solte büssen (O welt, ich muss dich lassen)
21(15). Erkenne mich, mein Hüter (Herzlich tut mich verlangen)
23(17). Ich will hier bei dir stehen (Herzlich tut much verlangen)
31(25). Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit (Herzliebster Jesu)
38(32). Mir hat die Welt trüglich gericht (In dich hab ich gehoffet )
44(36). Wer hat dich so geschlagen (O Welt, ich muss dich lassen)
48(40). Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen (Werde munter, mein Gemüthe)
53(44). Befiehl du deine Wege (Herzlich tut mich verlangen)
55(46). Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe (Herzliebster Jesu)
63(54). O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Herzlich tut much verlangen)
72(63). Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden (Herzlich tut much verlangen)
In its final form, the SMP contains 42 lyrical movements: 12 chorales, 15 arias, 11 ariosi, and four choruses. Bach presented the SMP at least four times: 1727 earliest version, 1729 first surviving version (BWV 244b), 1736 (definitive version), and 1742 reprise with refinement of texts and instrumentation.
In addition, in 1729 Bach was able to present at least 10 madrigalian movements in his parody Funeral Music for Köthen Prince Leopold, BWV 244a, BC B-23, March 24, just three weeks before the second performance of the SMP on April 15. The opening and closing choruses of the Funeral Ode, Cantata BWV 198, were used in the first of four parts. The remaining 11 movements, entire text by Picander, involved a chorus and 10 ariosi introductions to the arias and could have been a radical parody of comparable movements from the SMP and the Funeral Ode.
Terri Noel Towe in his 1991 BCW article on the SMP provides this summary of the changes in the 1736 edition: "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. 56 and 57] was a lute rather than a viola da gamba. The First Part lacked the chorale `Ich will hier bei dir stehen' [No. 17], and, more importantly, ended not with the remarkable and monumental chorale fantasia `O Mensch, bewein' dein Sünde gross', 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'." www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP-TNT.htm.
Here is the BCW BWV 244 Details listing: www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244.htm
Also, Thomas Braatz BCW articles on BWV 244a and General Discussion, BWV 244b:
The following is a summary of an article on the SMP by the late conductor Bruno Walter, "Notes on Bach's St. Matthew Passion," in <Of Music and Music-Making> (New York: Norton 1957/61, pp. 170-190). Walter discusses in detail the general plan, interpretation, and liberties. I think he shows great insight, wisdom, and generosity of spirit, as a Jew who treasured a most-Christian (?universal) work
In the first section of his essay, "The general plan of the work" (pp. 171ff) Walter describes the three Bach Passion ingredients: narrative, lyrics, and hymns, seen as both dramatic and religious elements. The SMP "contains a trinity of groups, each belonging to its proper sphere." 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."
The "proper sphere" is the place of each group. Walter describes these as regions: "the first is the real, terrestrial region of historical places" in the Passion narrative. "In this space move, speak, and act the figures of the Gospel," the main characters and the groups. "To their sphere belongs the evangelist Matthew who is narrating their actions and sayings."
The second sphere is a "spiritual one," involving the voices of figures who "express their profound participation in the sayings, conduct, and fate of Jesus. These soulful figures correspond, as it were, to the figures of the devout and prayerful, in their relation to the Saviour, or to the Holy Family in medieval paintings." In this and the next section, "Questions of interpretation," Walther describes the meaning and significance of the lyric scenes, both dramatic dialogues and individual arias.
He begins with a detailed study of the opening chorus. From the "supra-mundane dimension emerges the gigantic chorale-fantasia of the beginning, `Come ye daughters, share my mourning'*," "experiencing, and accompanying their plaint, the Saviour's journey to Golgatha." Walther cites the "power and profound emotional strength" of a "world-encompassing dirge and self-accusation by mankind," with the boy's voices entering in the chorale, "O Saviour, meek and lowly."
Also to the "supra-mundane sphere belongs" the soprano-alto duet, No. 27a, "Behold, my Saviour now is Taken," mourning Jesus' arrest and "interrupted by the anguished chorale outbursts, `Loose Him! Leave Him! Bind Him not!', and followed by the desperate invocation of hell's fury upon the head of the betrayer," the dramatic chorus, No. 27b, "Will Lightning and Thunder."
The first part soon closes with another chorale-fantasia, No. 29, "O man, thy grievous sin bemoan," what Walter calls, "a touching reflection on the life of Jesus from birth to crucifixion." He describes the intervening ariosi and arias of Part 1 as a "meditative, lyrical contrast to the dramatic events of reality which grow out of them and are to reach their climax in the second part. They, in turn, are followed at the close of the work by the solemn, consolatory epilogue which comes from those transcendent regions - by the pious souls' thanksgiving and valedictory to the Saviour," No. 67, "And now the Lord is laid to rest," and the closing chorus, No. 68, "In tears of grief, dear Lord, we leave thee."
"Common to these two groups - that of the figures of the Gospel and that of the compassionate witnesses - is their manifest contemporaneity with the historical events of the Christ drama, and therefore with the beginnings of Christianity. The chorales, on the other hand, occupy a third, more distant plane, a timeless afterwards -- in them, we hear the voice of developed, existing Christianity."
Under the section "Questions of interpretation" (pp. 174ff) Walter rejects both an historical romantic approach or a then-contemporary (1950s) "academic exactness and `objectivity'" to "the proper Bach style." He favors letting "us follow our hearts, and put into our pof Bach's music the same intensity and truthfulness of feeling that we meet on its every page." Walters speaks of "a reverent approach to, and intimate knowledge of, the spiritual content of Bach's compositions," "an exalted calmness." "Excesses of temperament, brilliance, and virtuosity, and frequent changes of dynamics or expressive nuance will, therefore, be out of place.."
"Certainly, wherever Bach becomes a dramatist, as for instance in his characterization of the real acting and speaking figures, he demands an unstinting vitality of expression - from the goodness, the solemnity, and the sorrow of Christ's sayings, to the penitent despair of Judas before the priests, and the furious outbursts of the people." "To those who advocate an `objective' narrator's tone for the evangelist I should like to point out that Bach had in mind the inspired apostolic soul of Matthew when writing these recitatives."
Walter distinguishes between Bach's treatment of the narrative, speaking without Bach's own dramatic voice, but then Bach does so in the singing of the arias and ariosi, those "compassionate figures of the work's second dimension." Walter emphasizes that his own general "advocacy of moderation" "must be exempted" in such movements as the "full fury" and "violent expression" of the chorus, No. 27b "Have lightning's and thunder their fury forgotten"; a "muted drama in the spiritual sphere" as in the tenor solo, No. 19, "O grief"; and an "inward lyricism" in the duet, No. 27a, "Behold, my Saviour now is taken."
Walter expresses special empathy with the dramatic dialogue, No. 36, "Ah, now is my Jesus gone," beginning Part 2; the stand-alone contemplative bass aria, No. 42, "Give me back my Lord"; the soprano arioso-aria sequence, Nos. 48-49, "To all men Jesus good hath done" and ""For love my Savior now is dying"; the alto arioso, No. 51 "O gracious God"; and the bass arioso, No. 57 "Come, healing cross."
Walter describes the SMP signature chorale, "O sacred head now wounded," as "the timeless community of Christians, living and deceased, proclaiming across time and space the compassion and ardent love of Christ that inform this chorale." "In Munich I was already asking myself why every entry of a chorale shook me to the roots of my very being." "What came over me beyond the sphere of drama and beyond the feelings of the participating faithful" in the chorales was that "I perceived mankind united, dedicated, confessing, praying.."
As for the size of the SMP performing ensemble, Walter in the section "Liberties" (p. 180ff), says: "We can no longer be guided by the number of executants that were under Bach's direction in the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig; we must make allowance for the musical and emotional requirements of the work and the acoustic properties of our large concert halls and churches," especially in the turbae choruses. In particular, Walter gives a personal exemption to the literal Gospel requirements when the Centurion and those with him proclaim, "Truly this was the son of God," the SMP's core. "I thought it right to have those bars sung by both choirs with the utmost abandon, with full accompaniment of orchestra and organ," says Walter (p. 181f).
Walter concludes (p. 190): "The greatness of Bach's St. Matthew Passion can only be measured by those who recognize in this sublime masterpiece the apostolic inspiration that brought it into being."
*Translations of Ivor Atkins, in Elgar SMP revision, Novello & Co., London. Walter (p.170f) expresses "my lasting gratitude to the meritorious translator of the text, Dr. Henry S. Drinker. His rendering of the German text into English showed great linguistic aptitude and a real understanding of the music; it was an essential contribution to the profound impression made by this and subsequent performances of the work." Drinker's translation, in the public domain, is used in the Bärenreiter editions of BWV 244 (BA 5038a) and 244b (BA 5099a).
Genesis of Bach's Passions: 1700-1731
Bach's road to creating Passion music was long and intricate, ultimately leading to the large-scale St. Matthew Passion. Bach's Passion contributions form one large, interwoven tapestry, here and there shot through with strands contributed by others. His Passion odyssey appears to have embraced five distinct, progressive experiences as he pursued a large cohesive work with unified internal structure and identity of common themes, ingredients, and purpose.
Bach's Passion creations developed during five phases or elements; each can be identified with the concept or application to both the five sections of a sermon or the general classical rhetorical use of five principles or concepts in the art of argument.
The five terms are:
(1) Exordium (introduction), basis for the endeavor, theme or argument, subject matter, key ingredients;
(2) Proposito (key statement), dictum, concept, establishing substance;
(3) Tractatio (investigation of the proposito = exposition of the key statement);
(4) Applicatio (application of the key statement), the full expression
(5) Conclusio (final statement or summary).
The five terms with phases of Bach's Passion-influenced works are:
(1) Exordium, 1700-1708, Pre-Weimar. Bach composes first Passion chorale settings for organ, in Neumeister Collection; his first encounter in 1705 in Hamburg with lyrical texts of Keiser-Postel St. John Passion, and Keiser-Hunold oratorio Passion "Der blutige und sterbene Jesus." Bach composes music of penitence at Mühlhausen (1707), using the other two Passion textual ingredients, biblical words and choral texts, in his sacred memorial concertos BWV 106 (tonal structure, Passion texts) and BWV 131 (de profundis, Psalm 130), and Easter Cantata BWV 4 (pure-hymn stanzas) in palindrome form (madrigalian chorus, recitative, aria). Resignation letter (6/25/08): principle of "well-regulated church music." *
(2) Proposito, 1708-1717, Weimar. Keiser's St. Mark oratorio Passion, composed 1707-1712, Bach performance c.1713; Bertold Brockes' 1712 Hamburg publication of Passion oratorio lyrical text known as "Brockes Passion. Funeral music for Prince Johann Ernst, "Was ist, das wir Leben nennen, BC B-19, 2 April 1716. Bach composes "Weimar-Gotha Passion," BC D-1, "proto"-biblical oratorio Passion (26 March 1717); part of annual Passion presentation tradition; only six to nine lyric movements extant (authenticated). Also, 1717 Handel, Telemann "Brockes Passion" oratorio settings performed in Hamburg, Leipzig, respectively.
(3) Tractatio, 1723-25, Leipzig: Passion-influenced music, Cantatas BWV 22 and 23 for Leipzig probe (7 February 1723); first major sacred vocal work, Magnificat, BWV 243, Christmas 1723. First unified oratorio Passion (SJP, BWV 245, BC D-2a, 7 April 1724), emphasis on narrative with 11 chorales, selective madrigal poetry (two choruses, eight arias, two ariosi), with two dramatic dialogues - all newly composed. Choice of John's Gospel may be due to: a) selection by religious authorities to emphasize Lutheran theme of "Christus Victor" and Jesus' trials, b) John's non-synoptic Gospel treatment is most concise, c) Brockes Passion lyric text is based on John's treatment. Bach struggles with SJP structure, presents four versions: BC D-2b, 30 March 1725 (with chorale-influenced movements); BC D-2c, c.1732 (pure John's gospel), BC D-2d, 1749 (reverts to first version); and BC D-2e, incomplete revision, starting c.1739.
(4) Applicatio, 1725-29, Leipzig: the grand-scale St. Matthew oratorio Passion, BWV 244 with Bach in full command of his powers; contains 12 chorales, 15 arias, 11 ariosi, three choruses. He presents three versions: BC D3a, 11 April 1727 (?single chorus), BWV 244b, 15 April 1729 (expanded double choruwith six dramatic dialogues); BC D3b, 1735 (definitive); 1742 (reprise). Bach presents new version of Keiser St. Mark oratorio Passion, BC D-5, 4/19/26, with strong biblical narrative, dramatic music. Bach also, presents Funeral Ode, BWV 198, 17 October 1727, core music parodied in BWV 247, BC D-4, and parodied Köthen Funeral Music, BWV 244a, BC B-22, and BC B-21 (unknown), 23-24 March 1729.
(5) Conclusio, 1729-31, Leipzig; the St. Mark oratorio Passion, BWV 247, BC D-5, 23 March 1731), the concise summation of Bach's oratorio Passions, through parody, with the literal use of extensive music from previous compositions of mourning and consolation; emphasis on 16 chorales, only two choruses and five arias.
Postscript: Assembly of Pasticcio Passions: Keiser-Handel oratorio Passion, and "After Graun," Passion oratorio, both1740s, Leipzig. About 1730, Bach copies first third of anonymous St. Luke oratorio Passion, BWV 246; ?reperformance in 1740s.
Bach's Passion settings of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the central drama in the Christian Faith, have three essential ingredients common during Bach's time: 1) biblical narrative of the two-chapter settings in the four Gospels or a composite harmony treatment such as the Brockes Passion or the Seven Last Words of Christ From the Cross; 2) lyrical commentary or interpretations based on Lutheran teachings or biblical paraphrases; and 3) chorale hymns as the collective expression of, variously, the people, congregations, or believers. Bach's significance use and blending of these three groups is probably what makes his oratorio Passions unique and significant, especially in their utilization in the Lutheran Good Friday Vesper Services in Leipzig. Underlying this is Bach's dramatic treatment and adaptation of these three elements in his extant Passion settings.
*Principle of "well-regulated church music." Composer provides main service music, cantata cycles for all Sundays and Feast-Days of the Church Year; as well as settings of annual Passion oratorios on Good Friday; Oratorios for major feast days such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Ascension; Missa settings and Magnificat settings; German settings of Latin music for the Mass; also Orgelbüchlein chorale settings for the church-year, BWV 599-644,1708-1726 (incomplete), and the Clavier-übung III, German Organ Mass, BWV 552, 669-689, 802-5.
See my BCW Article, "BWV 244, Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography)"
Also, "Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion:
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 10, 2009):
BWV 244 SMP: Spheres
William Hoffman wrote:
< The SMP "contains a trinity of groups, each belonging to its proper sphere." 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." >
This is in essence an extension of the patristic allegorical hermeneutic which dominated biblical commentary until the modern scientific period of biblical studies at the end of the 18th century. Dante gave probably the most distinctive outline of this allegorical method which is a key to textual interpretation which was still operative in Luther's writings and thus in Bach's biblical aesthetic.
The fourfold allegory is:
1) Literal - The story or narrative. In the Bach Passions, this would be the chronological sequence of events recounted by the Evangelist. Bach does refine the literal story in the SJP by adding the scene of Peter's weeping and the Earthquake from Matthew's Gospel. Those scenes which do not appear in John's Gospel.
2) Allegorical - The "cloak" which hides the meaning. This element is already present in the biblical narrative. For example, the earthquake in the SMP is more than a geologic event: it also carries the theological meaning of the created order's response to the death of the divine Son of the Creator. Both the chorales and the arias often carry the allegorical sense.
3) Moral - This is the teaching which the event in the literal story holds for the reader. In the Bach Passions, the chorales carry the moral allegory. A good example is the chorale after the Buffeting in the SMP in which the violence against Jesus is interpreted as the modern individual's sin against God. The use of "I" and "my" usually signals the moral allegory.
4) Anagogic - This is what Dante calls the "spiritual" teaching, more specifically the relationship of the soul to God. In Lutheran teaching, this sense always focusses on the soul and death. In the Bach Passions, the anagogic sense is always expressed through the poetic movements. An example is "Ich Will Bei Meinem Jesum" in which the Tenor as the Soul sings that he will watch for Christ and it is his sins which will fall asleep. Thus, the event in the literal story is an allegory of the Last Things.
In a literary genre, the four levels exist simultaneously. In music, which has to exist in time, the aesthetic has to be sequential. Bach approaches this in two ways. Sometimes he interrupts the story: Christ's dialogue with Peter about betrayal is interrupted by the chorale "Erkenne mich" and the drama of the literal story is held up while the chorus makes its moral point. At other times, the intrusion into the narrative comes at the end of a "scene": Christ's dialogue in Gethsamane ends with him at prayer. At this point, the tenor comments on the whole scene with "O Schmerz".
It is noteworthy that Romantic performances of the Passion made extensive cuts in the arias and chorales because they felt that the other movements reduced the 'dramatic' quality of the literal story. One often senses the impatience of modern audiences with long da capo arias such as "Von den Stricken" or "Erwäge" for which the narrative excitement of the literal story is frustratingly suspended.
Peter Smaill wrote (April 10, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] William, thank you very much for this excellent and comprehensive piece on the St Matthew Passion and its setting within the Liturgy, the baroque rhetorical tradition and the theological environment of Leipzig in 1727.
I can add nothing to the core of this scholarly exposition but at the fringes of the questions surrounding what happened afterwards we have the recent discovery in St Petersburg of hundreds of text booklets likely the collection of the enlightenment writer Johann Christoph Gottsched. One of these states that the setting for 1734 was a Passion Oratorio by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. The collection also causes the redating of a few Cantatas, outline is to be found on: http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/dialogue_2009.html
T. Barndt wrote (April 11, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Eric Chafe in "Analyzing Bach Cantatas" (Oxford University Press) expounds on these fourfold allegory ("The Hermeneutic Matrix") and how they tie into Lutheran theology, including Bach's choices of keys and harmonizations and even into the theological concepts behind tempered tuning.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 11, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] The Bach-Jahrbuch 2008 has an article about what you mention, as well as a few other things.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 11, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] Will supply my article soon (perhaps next week).
On the whole, yours is a pretty good article, but needs a few tweaks yet.
Jean Laaninen wrote (April 11, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The following is a summary of an article on the SMP by the late conductor BrWalter, "Notes on Bach's St. Matthew Passion," in <Of Music and Music-Making> (New York: Norton 1957/61, pp. 170-190). Walter discusses in detail the general plan, interpretation, and liberties. I think he shows great insight, wisdom, and generosity of spirit, as a Jew who treasured a most-Christian (?universal) work >
Having sung the SMP four years on Good Friday, I concur very much with what William Hoffman has stated about Walter's insight. Because I know this work so well in my memory it was a distinct pleasure to read this complete introduction. Thank you.
Ed Myskowski wrote (April 12, 2009):
BWV 244, SMP
William Hoffman wrote:
>Since the John and Matthew oratorio Passion musical settings contain the full biblical texts, >the reading or chanting of the Gospels was eliminated from the Good Friday Vesper service. <
Thanks to Will for the stimulating introduction. The point I excerpt caught my attention on a quick first read, because it was directly contradicted and emphasized by Christoph Wolff in his spoken introduction to the Emmanuel Music (Boston) SMP performances last weekend (Palm Sunday). Prof. Wolff specifically stated that the Biblical texts would have already been heard at the morning Good Friday vespers, and this detail is important in his elaboration of the impact of the full passion texts, including chorales and commentary, on the Leipsig congregation. Is there a source to confirm the point, one way or the other?
To summarize (and oversimplify), the full musical passion text is intended less to tell the story again, and more to update the story for relevance an understanding by modern (18th C.) Leipzig, with the chorales providing the historic (16th C) Lutheran foundation. This structure and intent was a well thought out working plan, a joint venture between Bach and Picander.
It does seem a significant detail, whether or not the Biblical source text, however well known in general, was repeated for morning vespers and afternoon passion, emphasizing the specific details. On a parallel note, Prof. Wolff also suggested that the very significant differences in the outlook and events of the John and Matthew gospels is an inherent source of the differences in Bachs musical atchitecture for these two very different works.
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 12, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Prof. Wolff specifically stated that the Biblical texts would have already been heard at the morning Good Friday vespers, and this detail is important in his elaboration of the impact of the full passion texts, including chorales and commentary, on the Leipsig congregation. Is there a source to confirm the point, one way or the other? >
Vespers was always the afternoon service. The morning service was the mass/eucharist at which the Passion was chanted to Luther's adaptation of the old Gregorian melodies. This is a very salient point for Luther was careful to use the old reciting formulae which were pitched differently for different characters: middle range for the evangelist, low for Christ, and high for the other characters. Thus, Bach's listeners had already heard the passages sung by the same voice registers which he used in the concerted Passions: this is particularly noticeable in the SMP where for example the Christus is the lowest of the bass characters and the two false witnesses are boy alto and high tenor.
A question which someone who has a copy of Stiller can probably answer. In pre-Reformation practice, the four Passions were read successively during Holy Week: Matthew on Palm Sunday, Mark on Tuesday, Luke on Wednesday and John on Good Friday (Lassus composed polyphonic settings of all four.) Luther changed the sequence so that the Passion was only read on Good Friday. I'm assuming that there was a four-year sequence of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Has anyone researched in which years a particular Passion was assigned and whether Bach's Passions reflect the sequence?
Evan Cortens wrote (April 12, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< A question which someone who has a copy of Stiller can probably answer. In pre-Reformation practice, the four Passions were read successively during Holy Week: Matthew on Palm Sunday, Mark on Tuesday, Luke on Wednesday and John on Good Friday (Lassus composed polyphonic settings of all four.) Luther changed the sequence so that the Passion was only read on Good Friday. I'm assuming that there was a four-year sequence of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Has anyone researched in which years a particular Passion was assigned and whether Bach's Passions reflect the sequence? >
I confess, I don't know if there was a prefixed cycle for the readings in Leipzig, however it would seem that there was no pre-defined order for the music. Table 8.16 (p. 295) in the Wolff bio would seem to confirm this:
1724: John (BWV 245, version 1)
1725: John (BWV 245, version 2)
1726: Mark (by Bruhns/Kaiser?)
1727: Matthew (BWV 244, version 1)
1728: ? John (BWV 245, version 3)
and so on. Granted there are a number of gaps in the table (1733-35, 1737-38, 1740-41, 1743-44, 1746), but that said: a Luke passion is only done twice, a Mark passion also only twice, and a number of passion oratorios (which are not based on any particular narrative) were performed.
However, I do know a little something about liturgical practice in Hamburg, where C. P. E. Bach was cantor. In the mid-17th century (I confess I don't have the date handy), then-cantor Thomas Selle established a sequence for musical passion performances: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, in that order for four years, repeating. Until 1789, when the liturgical music was dramatically downsized, this sequence held with only one exception: CPEB's first passion, a Matthew, in 1769. (Folks have speculated as to why this was, but no one's quite sure. Leisinger's critical report, in the recently-published edition from CPEB:CW, offers a good discussion.) Passion oratorios (notably CPEB's own Passion Cantata and Graun's Tod Jesu) were only permitted at smaller churches, not at the five principal churches.
Hope this helps!
William Hoffman wrote (April 13 2009):
The only reliable primary source re. Bach's Passions is Johann Christoph Rost(en), St. Thomas Sexton, BD II, No. 180, NBR 114, with the full Good Friday Vesper Service listing and an incomplete listing, 1723-50, of the Good Friday dates and churches.
My note on Stiller in my BCW article SMP BWV 244, Early History (Annotated, Selective Bibliography): No. 19, 1984:
<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 Psalm 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.>
Spitta in his systematic, Germanic scholarship tried to piece together a four-year chronology. It is found in Vol. II, Appendix No. 56 on p. 711f: "Thus Bach would have performed his four Passions in the order of the four Gospels": Matthew, 1729; Mark 1731; Luke, 1734; and John, 1736 -- all at St. Thomas. Spitta got the first two right but Daniel Melamed, <Hearing Bach's Passions>, even doubts that the spurious Luke, BWV 246, was ever performed by Bach. The only documentatioon I can find is in Telemann's four-Gospel order in Hamburg, beginning in 1722 (Petzoldt). There also is an annual Passion tradition at Gotha, 1699-1768 (Stoezel Brockes Passion CPO liner notes), but, like Leipzig, it's pretty vague.
Which brings up my personal question: How come, in the German musical Passion tradition, is the each-decade harmony Passion Play at Oberammergau never mentioned? It's coming up again next year. I've got the 1960 text book -- a cast of 59, including 15 pharisees, 10 priests and 6 traders. It puts to shame J. Arthur Rank and Darrell Zanuck.
That version was written in 1860 by J.A. Daisenberger, with music by Rochus Dedler in 1815. Maybe, like Picander, the whole enterprise is an embarrassment to some scholars.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 13, 2009):
[To Evan Cortens] There are a lot of differences between Hamburg and Leipzig.
1.) Hamburg is and always was more liberal than Leipzig.
2.) Unlike Leipzig, Hamburg's requirements (as borne out by Mattheson's own testimony in 1753) take the Passion story from the point of the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
3.) If one looks closely at the texts for the Passion settings, one would find the ones of Leipzig to be more Scripture-accurate. That is to say, there is more use of word-for-word Scripture texts in the Leipzig Passions than those of Hamburg (in fact, some [i.e., the 1744 Lukas-Passion of Telemann and every text of Emanuel Bach's Passions] even twist Scripture around or re-word it, whereas the texts used by Bach and other Leipzigers follow [with very few minor exceptions] the exact wording of the 1545 Lutherbibel).
Evan Cortens wrote (April 13, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] My apologies if I was unclear; I certainly didn't mean to suggest any relationship whatsoever between liturgical practices in Leipzig and Bach (other than that they're both Lutheran, and both had cantors with the last name Bach). I certainly didn't mean to imply that we can understand Leipzig (and J. S. Bach) through the lens of Hamburg (and C. P. E. Bach).
Rather, Doug's mention of a possible rotation of scriptural readings on a yearly basis reminded me strongly of the practice in Hamburg, and I thought the group might be interested in that. That said, it is, in a sense, off-topic.
Ed Myskowski wrote (April 13, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>Luther changed the sequence so that the Passion was only read on Good >Friday. I'm assuming that there was a four-year sequence of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Has anyone researched in which years a particular Passion was assigned and whether Bach's Passions reflect the sequence? >
In the Oxford Composer Companion to J. S. Bach, the article on vespers, signed by RAL (Robin A. Leaver) and including Stiller in the references, concludes:
<On Good Fridays, Vespers were arranged differently [from the outline preceding] to incorporate a musical setting of the passion story.>
Exactly what passion story(s) was read (chanted?) as part of the earlier Mass and/or Vespers, preceding the full passion performance, is indeed worthy of further research. I think Will Hoffmans detail in his introduction, suggesting that the passion story was deleted from earlier (on Good Friday) services, before the passion, is at least deserving of a question mark. I am pursuing this detail not to be picky, but because I am certain that Will and Doug (among others?) would like to get it correct.
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 13, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< In the mid-17th century (I confess I don't have the date handy), then-cantor Thomas Selle established a sequence for musical passion performances: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, in that order for four years, repeating. >
This would seem to be the obvious sequence, but the Bach works don't seem to fit that schema. It would be interesting to know who decided which Passion would be set in which years. Is it likely that it was at the discretion of the Cantor alone?
William Hoffman wrote (April 13 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It would be interesting to know who decided which Passion would be set in which years. Is it likely that it was at the discretion of the Cantor alone? >
William Hoffman replies. For years, various Bach scholars, beginning with Spitta and Schweitzer, have suggested that Bach may have worked with the lead pastors, Christian Weiss Sr. at St. Thomas and Superintendent Salomon Deyling at St. Nikolas, and also probably worked closely with Picander on the annual Passions and other events such as the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. More recently, scholars such as Leaver, Stiller, and Axmacher have shown an even closer collaboration involving Bach, the pastors and Picander, especially re. the use of Henrich Mueller's Passion sermons in the lyric music of the SMP, the choice of chorales, as well as the sermon related to Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53. I realize I'm conflating a lot of information in summary. We know that Bach had a preference for introducing his works at St. Thomas because it had better space and working conditions and was more convenient.
We also know that in the 1720s, the Leipzig Passion tradition was firmly rooted in the biblical Passion Oratorio form and alternated between the two main churches. We also know that Bach's conflicts were with the Town Council and not with the consistory with re. to the particular music (and text) he presented.
Having said all that, and to make a long story even longer, it appears that we just learned from the English Bach Network that as early as 1734, we have a Stoelzel poetic Oratorio Passion presented by Bach at St. Thomas, after the 1733 August the Strong tempus clausum. This, so to speak, opens up a Box of Pandoras. For the choice, I suspect that Bach was pushing the envelope, or perhaps responding to it, and found a work he liked and was acceptable in Gotha. The concept of prior practice also accepts in Leipzig the Keiser Mark Passion Oratorio, the Telemann and Handel Brockes Passion Oratorios and, I believe, in 1729, a ?Frober Passion Oratorio at St. Nikolas at the same time as the SMP at St. Thomas.
It's also interesting that after Bach's 1739 conflict with the Town Council over Passion approval that in the 1740s, he presents at least two Passion hybrid pastiches, Keiser-Handel and the melange after Graun etc. Who knows, Bach might even have presented them at the New Church, the University Church or perhaps even at Zimmerman's.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 13, 2009):
Matthaeus-Passion BWV 244b and BWV 244 and Trauerkantate BWV 244a
As promised, my article is now available for reading on the Bach Cantatas Website. Here is the link to it:
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] The Bach-Jahrbuch 2005-2008 have a lot to say on this subject as well as about Bach's Passions in general.
Jean Laaninen wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr., regarding his article] Thank you for a well developed article that is easy to comprehend tracing the history of this work. It's a very nice contribution to the articles page.
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr., regarding his article] The article has a link to:
Grob, Jochen. Ordnung der Vespergottesdienste für die Karfreitag Bearbeitete Zusammenstellung nach Darstellungen von Prof. Dr. Martin Petzold und Christoph Wolff 2008-2009. Taken 10 April 2009 from
The site outlines the order of mass and vespers in Leipzig. On the "Gottesdienstordnung" page, it states that if the principal cantata in the morning has two parts, the second part is sung during the communion:
Teil 2 einer zweiteilligen Kantate
I thought that the two parts of the first cantata were performed before and after the sermon. The "sub communione" cantata was another work.
Can someone clarify? (my German may well be faulty)
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] In the case of a short cantata (such as BWV 22 and BWV 23), Kantate II would indeed be the second cantata. However, in cases where there are two parts of a cantata (such as BWV 76), Kantatae II would be the 2nd part of the cantata.
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Interesting. You're right that Wolff proposes that on p. 257 (footnote e) of "Bach: The Learned Musician".
Yet the BGA score begins the second part of BWV 76 with:
Nach der Predigt
BWV 147 "Herz und Mund" just has "Seconda Parte."
Does anyone have access to the NBA to check what markings the original scores have?
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Because it would be after the Sermon. The Sermon is the central point of Evangelical (Lutheran) liturgy. Even the 2nd part of the Passion settings bear that title ("Nach der Predigt" or "Vor der Predigt" for the 1st part).
Douglas Cowling wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] That makes sense in the case of the Passions where the 2nd part follows after the sermon, but the communion was a considerable time later in the service. One would assume that the term "sub communione" would be used. All the commentaries I've seen suggest that the second part was performed immediately after the sermon, not during the communion. Interesting.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 15, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Not necessarilly. Here is the general Order of Worship:
Gottesdienstordnung der Leipziger Hauptkirchen für gewöhnliche Gottesdienste zur Zeit Bachs in Leipzig
Gemeinde & Orgel
Prediger & Minestranten
Mit Ausnahme der Kanzelstücke
im Rezitationston gesungen
Geläut mit allen Glocken
Aufstecken der Altarkerzen
Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie,
figuraliter oder choraliter
als deutsches Kyrielied
Gloria, lat. Intonation
lat. Gloria Intonation mit
Gloria:...Et in terra pax,
mit einem deutschen Glorialied
De tempore Lied
Credo, lat. Intonation
auf die" Hauptmusice"
Kantate I bzw.
Teil 1einer zweiteiliger Kantate
Wir glauben all an einen Gott
Ankündigung der Predigt
ca. um 8Uhr
~ 1 Std. lang
Vater unser (still),
28 & 29
Kantate II bzw.
Teil 2 einer zweiteilligen Kantate
Praeludien & Lieder
Schluß kollekte & Segen
Lied nach Ps. 67:
Gott sei uns genädig
und segne uns ...
N.B.: Gottesdienstbeginn 7:00 Uhr morgens, Dauer ca. 3 Stunden
-- Mehrere in einer Zeile stehenden Teile werden in der Abfolge von links nach rechts lesend abgehalten.
Gültige Ordnung für folgende Tage des Kirchenjahres in Leipzig:
- 1. - 6. Sonntag nach Epiphanias*
- Misericordias Domini
- 1. - 27. Sonntag nach Trinitatis*
N.B.: * Anzahl der Sonntage nach Epiphanias bzw. nach Trinitatis schwankt aufgrund der wechselnden Lage des Termin des Osterfestes.Somit schwankt die Zahl der Ephiphanias-Sonntage zwischen 2-6 und es gibt entsprechend mehr oder wenige Sonntage nach Trinitatis.
As one could see, Communion was only a few spots after the Sermon (which at the morning services would be at about 8:00 A.M.). Also the Kantate II would actually be before Communion (hymns like "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der von uns den Zorn Gottes wand" would be after it)
Continue on Part 16