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Johannes-Passsion BWV 245
General Discussions - Part 8

Continue from Part 7

Discussions in the Week of March 25, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (March 22, 2016):
St. John Passion: Open Discussion, Thematic Notes

As Discussion Leader for the St. John Passion (BCW Details Johannes-Passion BWV 245 - Details] I want to begin not with an Introduction to what is BCML General Discussion Part 7 (that will follow later this week) but to an Open Discussion to encourage members participation. General rules and etiquette apply. Please be positive and thoughtful. Guys: no testosterone! General Topics include:

*My encounters, experiences – live – with the SJP music, reactions, general thoughts, and how they have changed over the years.
*Recordings, readings, discussions that I have experienced, what they mean to me, particular likes and learning.
*My favorite music, why, my own background and learning, and how it has influenced my responses and writings.

Live Encounters

On Sunday, March 11, 1962, still 18 and working in a music store instead of going to college, I experienced the Robert Shaw Chorale and Orchestra at Constitution Hall in Washington D. C. It was totally professional and in the Henry S. Drinker English idiomatic translation. “Reverence Tends To Obscure Genius Of Bach’s Passion,” read the headline of Paul Hume’s review in The Washington Post. “The spirit of religion was strong at all points during the afternoon. The musical spirit was a far less dependable affair. Shaw has never before brought us so minutely detailed a performance in which each single note was tailored to an immaculate degree.” Posterity enables us to judge for own, since there is a 1950 RCA Victor Vault Treasures recording, BCW Details, Johannes-Passion BWV 245 - conducted by Robert Shaw

It is the same group with earlier, fine singers and instrumentalists. I am particularly impressed, there and live, with both the drama and the reverence.

Here in Albuquerque for many years I have been able to hear performances of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the University of Mexico (UNM) Orchestra and Chorus, both in German with smaller ensembles in the preferred 1724/49 version.

St. John Passion Recordings

My next experience, on recordings, was the 1964 Karl Richter, Munich Bach Orchestra & Chorus, DVD BCW Details, Johannes-Passion BWV 245 - conducted by Karl Richter, broadcast over PBS in 1980. I wrote a feature story/review before the broadcast in the Albuquerque Journal in which I was highly favorable, given the sweeping, romantic approach, although the German forces seemed over-scrubbed and over-drilled. I also remarked that the music overall seemed too machine-gun like.

At the same time, as background for the article, I read the William Mann program notes on my Otto Klemperer Angel 1961 recording of the St. Matthew Passion, BCW Details, Matthaus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Otto Klemperer I discovered that Bach also had composed a lost “St. Mark Passion,” with core music surviving from Cantata 198, “Funeral Ode,” and I was truly smitten. I bought a recording and began researching this amazing work. The more I found, starting with mostly German sources, the more I was intrigued. Charles St. Terry’s book on Bach’s Passion was a major breakthrough, revelation, and remarkable for its time (1926), as well as Paul Steinitz’s similar book (1978). I am still waiting for a book on the Passions and Oratorios, given all that has been uncovered and exposed sine the Bach Tri-Centennial of 1985.

The next milestone for me and the St. John Passion is Christoph Wolf’s extensive liner notes to the Hanns-Martin Schneidt 1979 Archiv recording with the five movements from the 1725 version, BCW Details, Hans-Martin Schneidt & Regensburger Domspatzen - Bach's Vocal Works - Discography. It was a remarkable insight into the genesis of BWV 245, the various versions, and early research sources of the four Passions. I began systematically studying Bach’s vocal music and in 1985 produced my first “realization” of the St. Mark Passion, based on the similar narrative in the St. Matthew Passion.

Eventually, I enrolled at UNM in the Master of Music program in 1995 and in 2000 did my thesis on “Narrative Parody In Bach's St. Mark Passion,” see BCW The two chapters dealing with Bach’s Passions are: Chapter 3, “The German Passion Narrative and Bach’s Passions,” and Chapter 4, “Bach’s Leipzig Passions: Common Features.” A recovered journalist, I retired from the world of work in 2005, and in 2008 starting contributing to the BCW, attending Bach conferences and doing further research as well as collecting and enjoying books, recordings, and now offerings on the internet and other sources.

With the Bach Cantata Website, I have had the opportunity to produce articles and materials on the St. John Passion. For the 2010 Discussion I produced articles on “Literary Origins of Bach’s St. John Passion: 1704-1717” and “Bach’s Passion Pursuit.”

SJP Literary Origins

The “Literary Origins” (BCW Literary Origins of Bach's St. John Passion: 1704-1717 [by William Hoffman] deals with: Introduction, Music, Biblical Text, Dramatic Elements, Essential Literary Sources, Lyrical Movements, John’s Gospel and Anti-Judaism, Liturgical Oratorio Passion, Reinhard Keiser’s Influence, Brockes Passion, Brockes Passion Oratorio Settings, Other Poetic Passion Oratorios, Liturgical Oratorio Passions, Postel St. John Passion, Mattheson St. John Passion, Postel St. John Passion Lyrical Movements, Literary Influences, Musical Influences of Postel (Serauky), Sources of Other Lyrical Movements, Selectively Bibliography.

<<Here is a summary of the first article, "Literary Origins of Bach's St. John Passion: 1704-1717." Bach was required to present Passions annually on Good Friday at Vesper services alternating between Leipzig's two principal churches, St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. As the first of Bach's three oratorio Passions, the SJP was a model for his future oratorio presentations of Passions as well as for the major feast day oratorios as part of his Christological Cycle of major works. At the same time, Bach's three surviving oratorio Passions constitute one large, interwoven tapestry shot through with strands from other composers. These are explored in the two BCW articles.

Dramatic music was the lynch-pin of Bach's creative Passion endeavors. While preserving the biblical text, Bach amplified it dramatically, especially in the SJP. He deliberately imported two passages from Matthew's synoptic account of the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ: Peter weeping bitterly while Jesus is tried, after realizing his prophetic denials and betrayal, and at Jesus' death, the rending of the veil of the Jerusalem Temple, the earthquake, and the opening of graves, transforming Jesus of Nazareth into Christ crucified.

To this end, Bach composed two great choruses to frame the SJP and seven arias with two accompanying ariosi to reflect on the major events in the disciple John's unique account of Jesus' confrontation with and submission to profane authority. The seven crucial actions are: Jesus led to the High Priest Annas, Peter following, Jesus' scourging, Pilate seeking to release Jesus, Jesus led to Golgatha, Jesus' final proclamation, "It is finished," and the earthquake. Bach creates three types of contemplative dialogues. Besides the coupling of arioso and aria in two places for personal reflection and commentary, Bach composes two arias with chorales (one interspersed and one as a canto obbligato), as well as one aria with chorus interjections. Thethree dialogues are used extensively in his St. Matthew Passion, BWV 245.

The essential literary sources were twenty years in the making. Bach's encounter with the emerging oratorio German Passion forms began in Northern Germany, 1702-06. The highly-dramatic and pietistic poetic Passion Oratorio is exemplified in the Brockes Passion. While, it contains elements of anti-Judaism reflective of John's Gospel, Bach eschewed them in his treatment rooted in Lutheran teaching and bolstered with a panoply of congregational chorale hymns.

The major dramatic influences on Bach's SJP were the Brockes Passion and the poetry of Christian Henrich Postel. The most significant developments came from the composer and Hamburg Opera director Reinhard Keiser in the first 10 years. Bach learned much as he witnessed first-hand the eventual dominance of the Brockes Passion influence in the coming decade and its continuing effect - and affect - in the coming decades as the profane Passion Oratorio form was leavened with more sacred hymns and poetry.>>

Bach’s Passion Pursuit

“Bach’s Passion Pursuit” Bach's Passion Pursuit [by William Hoffman] deals with: Introduction, Bach’s “First” Passion (1711-14), Bach’s Weimar-Gotha Passion (1717); Theme of Weeping, Preparation for the John Passion; Bach’s Leipzig Probe; Composition; Characteristics of Bach’s SJP; Various Versions; Narrative Unity of Structure, Theme, Text; Internal Parody, St. John Passion Chorales; Chorale Usages in Passions.

<<Here is a summary of the second article, "Bach's Passion Pursuit." Bach's Passion pursuit actively began in Weimar with his initial presentation of the "Keiser" Hamburg St. Mark Passion, around 1711-14. Bach's endeavors may have had little to do with the Weimar court, except for the composition of a now-lost Funeral Cantata for Prince Johann Ernst in 1716. Bach may have presented the "Keiser" Passion at the Weißenfels Court, had a Passion contact involving cousin Johann Ludwig Bach at the Meiningen Court, and did compose his first Passion for the Gotha Court in 1717. Nine movements survive from this original poetic Passion: the framing opening and closing chorale choruses, four arias, an arioso, and two plain chorales. The two choruses and three arias were inserted into the 1725 SJP second version.

The disposition of these Gotha Passion movements involves the opening chorale chorus, "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß," to close Part 1 of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), in 1736; the closing chorus, "Christe, du Lamm Gottes," closing Cantata BWV 23 for Quinquagesima Sunday; and the aria-arioso combinations, both beginning "Erbarme dich" (Have mercy), and the chorale "Bin ich gleich," eventually closing Cantata BWV 55 for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.

The three movements now in Cantata 55 were probably located in Bach's Gotha Passion at the place where Peter weeps. The theme of weeping is found in German Passion poetry and in all three Bach original oratorio Passions of John, Matthew, and Mark. The image of the sacrificial lamb also is found throughout Bach's Passions.

Although Bach composed no sacred music in Köthen, he collaborate with the poet Menantes, who had written the first extant Passion Oratorio libretto in 1704 in Hamburg, to present congratulatory serenades for the Köthen court. Bach also visited Hamburg in 1719 and encountered the Passion-enthusiast Johann Mattheson.

Bach's Leipzig probe in early 1723 involved three composers with strong Passion credentials - Fasch, Telemann, and Graupner - who considered the Cantor's post but decided to remain where they were.

Established in Leipzig in June 1723, Bach began putting together the movement plan and the dramatic libretto for his St. John Passion. The original libretto appears to have been a collaboration between Bach, who had significant Passion literary resources, and someone with literary and theological abilities, probably university educated.

Bach's SJP focuses on the long confrontation scene, called "Herzstücke," between Jesus and his antagonists. Comprising one-third of John's Passion account in Chapters 18 and 19, it includes a palindrome or mirror structure, called "chiastic" or cross-like, as well as corresponding dramatic crowd choruses using similar musical motif and internal text parody.

Bach's use of congregational chorales plays a central role in the SJP. Besides the 11 four-part chorales interspersed throughout at places of repose, the two-hour-long Passion had two arias with chorale commentary, and in the1725 version, the two chorale choruses. Bach utilizes both traditional Passion and non-Passion chorales, many of which also are found in the Matthew and Mark Passions, as well, increasingly, as in the Passions of other composers.>>

In addition, in the 2010 SJP Discussion Part 6 (Ibid.) is a selection of following material:

<< Five-Part Sermon, Play: Tradition has long held that Bach’s church service music, particularly the yearly cantata cycle and the annual Passions, functioned as musical sermons. Bach scholar Robin Leaver has advanced this concept in the St. John Passion (SJP), BWV 245, in “J. S. Bach as Preacher: His Passions and Music in Worship” (Church Music Pamphlet Series; Carl Schalk, Editor), St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1982. Alfred Dürr describes the SJP as a sermon division into five acts in <Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion: Genesis, Transmission and Meaning>, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000 (English translation Alfred Clayton), from Bärenreiter-Verlag: Kassel, 1988.

Leaver describes the five as parts of a sermon as types of music: 1) <exordium> (introduction, dictum), No. 1 opening chorus; 2) <proposito> (key statement), Biblical text; 3) <tractatio> (treatment, investigation, exposition of Biblical text) in lyrical music; [sermon]; 4) <applicatio> (application), chorales; 5) <conclusio> (final statement, closing chorus. Leaver singles out musical examples: <tractatio>, lyrical movements such as Nos. 19 and 20, bass arioso, “Betrachte, meine Seele,” and No. 20, tenor aria, “Erwäge”; <applicatio>, chorales such as: No. 26, “Meines Hezens Grunde”; <proposito> (underlying theological purpose), the early chiastic structure, Nos. 6-10, Jesus’ arrest to Peter in the High Priest’s courtyard, as well as the central chiastic structure, from No. 18b, “Give us Barrabas,” to No. 25b, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’;” and <conclusio>, No. 39, “Rest Well.”

Dürr names the five actus cluster designations (in the form of a hexameter) in the Passion story as: A) “Hortus” (Garden), Nos. 2-5; B) “Pontifaces” (High Priests), Nos. 6-14; C) “Pilatus” (Pilate), Nos. 15-26; D) “Crux” (Cross), Nos. 27-37; E. “Sepulchrum” (sepulcher), Nos. 38-40. Dürr precedes A with Exordium I, No. 1. opening chorus; and C. with Exordium II, No. 15, chorale “Christus der uns selig macht.”>>

<<Theology: Models of Atonement

The themes of theology, tonal planning and musical structure in Bach’s St. John Passion (SJP) are explored in depth in Erich Chafe’s 1991 book, <Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S. Bach> (Berkeley, University of California Press: Chs.10, 11). He says that the SJP and the St. Matthew Passion (SMP) (BWV 244) are “strikingly different” (p. 275f) in “fundamental theological questions” and their impact on the “characters and structures.” He cites the guilt/innocence “dualism of orthodoxy” in the SJP contrasted to the pietism in the SMP (BWV 244). One reason for the differences, he says, is that the SJP was composed before Bach completed his first church cantata cycle and immerse himself in Leipzig doctrinal interests. Then, he began composing his second (chorale) cantata cycle and the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

Bach’s first two Leipzig Passions “represent two different theological traditions” regarding Christ’s atonement, Chafe says. The SJP emphasizes the early Greek Father’s view of Jesus as the Christus Victor model of atonement, while the later SMP (BWV 244) represents the “satisfaction” theory of redemption from Anselm in the 11th century, citing Jaroslav Pelikan’s <Bach Among tTheologians> (Philadelphia, Fortress Press: Chs. 7, 8). The “satisfaction theory was the “classic view” of the atonement during the early centuries of the church, lost during the Middle Ages, revived by Luther, and then lost again by Protestant Orthodoxy, according to Gustav Aulen, 20th century theologian.

The changes in the SJP 1725 second version, Chafe suggests (pp. 302-04), emphasize an acknowledgement of sin conforming with Leipzig church doctrine. Still, the “differing emphasesin Bach’s two Passions are not incompatible with Luther’s theology or with each other, but only the SMP (BWV 244) provides a well-rounded picture of orthodox Lutheran theology” of the times. The third historical theory -- or model -- of “atonement” (which means “at-one-ness”) is moral influence, as established by Peter Abelard, medieval French scholar.

Bach’s first Leipzig Passion reveals “John’s Theology of the Cross: The Passion as Jesus Glorification” in its general Christology of all aspects of the person of Christ, says Chafe (p. 282f). John’s emphasis on “the trial and Jesus’ speaking of the crucifixion as the ‘lifting’ that will draw all men to him” -- the fundamental idea of glorification through abasement, “which is completed in “Es ist vollbracht” (It is fulfilled) -- “is announced in the opening chorus,” says Chafe.>>

<<Tonal Allegory

Chafe explains his concept of tonal allegory in the section on “The Tonal Plan” (p.325f): “The principle of sharp/flat antithesis allowed Bach to allegorize the ideas of John’s theology in the structure of the passion as a whole. In general, when we examine the roles assigned to flats and sharps respectively, we find that they bear a striking association to the Johannine worlds of above and below, or the realms of the flesh (flats) and spirit (sharps).

“The scenes of Jesus capture, scourging, crucifixion and burial are all in flats, with special modulations into deep flats for the narrative of the crucifixion itself (B flat minor) [five flats], the reference to Judas (f minor) [four flats], the Ecce homo [behold the man],” etc. “Then, Peter’s repentance marks the move from flats to sharps, ending in A Major [three sharps], in Part 1. “Durch dein Gefängnis” voices the redemptive meaning of Jesus’ suffering in E Major, the triumphant D major middle section in the aria “Es ist vollbracht” – “Der Held aus Juda siegt mit Macht” – expresses the Johannine view of the crucifixion as a triumph . . . .”

The actual <Herzstück>, or centerpiece (Sections 4-6), begins with the bass arioso “Betrachte, meine Seele,” No. 19, in E-flat, followed by the tenor aria, Erwäge,” in C minor. Says Chafe: “Bach might even have intended the shape of the ascent followed by descent pattern to suggest a rainbow, to which the aria “Erwäge” at the beginning of the Herzstück refers. There, the patterns formed by the blood on Jesus’ back are described as resembling the rainbow [Regenbogen] of the covenant of Noah after the Flood [Wasserwogen].”

Various scholars have attempted to organize Bach’s Passions into key schemes or tonal centers. The most that can be said is that the large-scale St. John and St. Matthew (BWV 244) Passions , because they have no brass instruments, are able to range across the entire tonal pallet, especially in the connecting and modulating narrative recitatives; that certain general key areas or key schemes are apparent, such as John’s gravity between flat keys and sharp keys at the beginning, middle and end (arch/inverted arch forms), and Matthew’s progression from the opening E Minor through B Minor to the closing C Minor; and that both monumental closing choruses are in “rest-in-the-grave” flat-keys, called catabasis or descent. As for the St. Mark Passion, like its predecessor’s the “Keiser” Hamburg “St. Mark Passion” is in one dominant key, B-minor/D Major (based on its original core parody music in the “Funeral Ode,” Cantata BWV 198), like a shorter Passion cantata.>>

<<SJP: Theological Themes

Calvin R. Stapert’s writing on the <St. John Passion> provides a basic summary of the work with some of the most important related topics (<My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of Bach> (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000). It intensifies our understanding of the theology and importance the SJP plays in Bach’s great works. Regarding the primary theme of Christus Victor and models of atonement, he reveals (p. 116f) the significance of the aria “It is finished”: “There was . . . something of a consensus, at least among Calvinists and Lutherans, that ‘It is finished’ meant the completion of the perfect sacrifice of the cross, by which the justice of God was satisfied and full propitiation obtained,” quoting theologian Jaroslav Pelikan.

Stapert’s second theological theme in the SJP is Luther’s emphasis on the freedom of the Christian. It is found in the first aria, based on Brockes, No. 7, “Von den stricken,” “From the shackles of my sins to unbind me, my Savior is bound.” The ultimate expression of freedom is in the central chorale, Postel’s “Durch dein Gefängnis,” “Through your capture, Son of God, to us freedom must come.”

The third SJP theological theme is Discipleship, which is connected to obedience and faith. It begins with the second chorale, No. 5, “Dein Will gescheh,” “Thy will be done,” Luther’s versification of the Lord’s Prayer. Then, in order, Stapert cites three arias: No. 9, “Ich folge dir,” “I follow you likewise with joyful steps,” the first stage of discipleship, of simply following in joy; No. 13, “Ach my Sinn,” “O my mind, where will you finally go?” -- the second stage of uncertainty; and the answer at Golgatha, the dramatic dialogue, No. 24, “Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen,” “Hurry, you anguished souls,” and the acceptance of the cross as the “Cost of Discipleship,” as the late, distinguished Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says.

It is no coincidence that these three Discipleship arias (as well as the closing chorus) are in dance form involving collaborative movement: No. 9, a 3/8 gigue; No. 13, a ¾ chaconne-passacaglia; and No. 24, another 3/8 gigue. The closing chorus, No. 39, “Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine” (Rest well, ye holy limbs), is a grand ¾ minuet.

Bach and the Dance of God.In 1980, as the debate about Bach’s depth and breadth of spirituality raged, Wilfrid Mellers wrote a musical-theological study, <Bach and the Dance of God> (London-Boston, Feber and Faber) with crucial elements relevant to the <St. John Passion>. In his “Prelude” (p. 6f) Mellers describes the importance of dance in Bach’s music. “The dance- songs of primitive peoples depend on the rhythms of the human body and on the ‘sensual speech’ that relates us to nature; religious chant from remotest antiquity to the present day relates consciousness of the Word to the rhythms of breathing and speaking.”

Christianity, “more than any other religion, attempted to confront mortality and guilt, associating both with an event presumed to exist in historical time – the Crucifixion of Christ. This equation between guilt and time is a peculiarly European phenomenon, which radically transformed our notions of art and communication,” says Mellers.

In his “study” of the SJP in the section, “The Second Adam,” Mellers (p. 88f) addresses the importance of the Passion to Bach: “As a Lutheran, Bach found the heart of his experience in the story of Christ’s Passion and in the symbol of the Cross.” Bach uses operatic techniques “to tell man’s ultimate story, which turns out also to be God’s.” Bach’s Passions “present a mythology of sublime success, however painful,” of a hero both human and divine. His story of “birth, epiphany, humiliation, betrayal and martyrdom, leading to an apotheosis as bridegroom, monster-slayer and leader into a land restored” is a “scriptural epistemology (that) parallels most of the myths of classical antiquity, as well as those of primitive peoples.”

Mellers notes that the meanings of the word “passion” are multiple and are “relevant to Bach’s music.” The word’s root is “passive suffering” but its association with pathos (sorrow) relates also to pity and terro, with “overtones” of enthusiasm, anger and sexual desire. “We shall find evidence of all these in Bach’s musical incarnation of the telling of the Passion story by St. John; and that so much of the complexity of a human psyche is thus manifest testifies to Bach’s crucial position in history.”>>


To Come: St. John Passion: Johannine Theology and Christus Victor, John Butt thoughtd and Leipzig Good Friday Vespers, Chorales “O Mensch Bewein dein Suende Gross” and “Jesu Leiden, Pein, und Tod’; and Bach’s Dialogue With Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions.

Peter Smaill wrote (March 22, 2016):

William Hoffman wrote (March 23, 2016):
St. John Passion: Intro.

Palm Sunday by long-standing tradition began the Holy Week involving the events leading to the Passion, Crucifixion, Death and burial of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), describe the events preceding his sacrificial atonement: omens, the plot against Jesus, the Last Supper and his passion suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Bach’s first two Leipzig Passions represent two different theological traditions Christ’s atonement, The 1724 St. John Passion, BWV 245, emphasizes the early Greek Fathers’ view of Jesus as the Christus Victor model of atonement, while the later (1727) St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, represents the “satisfaction” theory of redemption from Anselm in the 11th century. The positive Christus Victor theme initially sounded at Palm Sunday with his triumphal entry into the Holy City, also known as Zion and Salem. The Palm Sunday Gospel, Matthew 21:1-9 (Christ’s entry into Jerusalem), with Luther’s 1545 German and English (KJV, 1611) texts are found at BCW

“While the genesis of christus victor can be found as early as St. Athanasius, it was St. Anselm who really developed this phrase to describe the person and work of Jesus Christ as the one who has triumphed over sin, death and evil, and in whom we too may have confidence that sin, death and evil has been overcome,” says Thomas Braatz, BCW contributor. John’s Account, Chapters 18 and 19, begins with Jesus capture in the Garden of Gethsemane and focuses on his trials before authority, and ultimate triumph following his death statement, “Is is finished” (Es ist vollbracht).

By protestant tradition from Luther on, Palm Sunday initiated the Passion readings with St. Matthew, Chapters 26 and 27; Tuesday, St. Mark, Chapters 14 and 15; Wednesday, St. Luke, Chapters 22 and 23; and Good Friday, St. John, Chapters 18 and 19. Thus, John was most appropriate in Leipzig on Good Friday at afternoon Vespers. The musical model Bach used in Leipzig was the oratorio Passion form first developed in Heinrich Schütz’s 1665 Dresden St. John Passion narration which closes with a chorale verse of “Christus der uns selig macht” (Christ, who makes us blessed, Patris sapienta), as well as the use of lyrical commentary in Thomas Selle’s 1643 Hamburg St. John Passion. A notable influence on Bach is the Postel St. John Passion, Hamburg 1704, once attributed to Handel.

Given the prominence of musical settings of John’s Passion Gospel and its place in the Leipzig Good Friday Vespers, it was most appropriate for Bach to choose John’s Christus Victor account. Early Bach scholars suggested that Bach pragmatically chose John’s account because it was the shortest of the four Gospels.

J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology

Eric Chafe’s J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology (Oxford University Press, 2014) <<covers not only the St. John Passion (hereafter simply SJP) by J. S. Bach, but also the cantatas which immediately precede and follow the 1725 performance of this Passion [says BCW contributor Thomas Braatz]. This will be an attempt to highlight a few points of possible interest to Bach scholars and musicologists although some listeners desiring to probe the depths of Bach’s theological insights and compositional skills will find this book rewarding as well. The following short report will omit most of the theological background which obviously influenced Bach as he composed this Passion and concentrate on only a few symbols, musical concepts and terms by way of illustration, thus hopefully encouraging others to read what Chafe has to say about various topics related to this monumental Bach composition.

Despite the numerous articles and liner notes that have been written about symbolic representations contained in the SJP, there is always more that can be learned about them and Chafe does not disappoint in this respect; however, be forewarned, this book is a difficult read not intended for the casual reader as even Chafe admits in his introduction.

For any listener or reader who wishes to delve into the marvelous symbolism hidden in the concepts behind such remarkable terms as Himmelsschlüsselblume (primrose: literally “flower that is the key to heaven”) from NBA section 19. Basso Arioso [“Betrachte….”] and Regenbogen (rainbow) from 20. Tenore Aria [“Erwäge….”], this book will certainly fulfill any such reader’s expectations for further enlightenment regarding these and other important symbols. Both terms are found at a significant point of meditation in the SJP and Bach’s setting of them is almost beyond human understanding, but Chafe supplies some old and new insights which will foster any reader’s appreciation of one of Bach’s most important masterpieces.

Just a short but necessary comment on the Lutheran orthodox theology: Chafe points out that despite the intervening two centuries between Bach’s SJP and Martin Luther’s writings and translation of the Bible, a substantial core of basic Lutheran orthodoxy, had remained essentially the same. Thus Chafe aspires “to provide a basis in historically oriented musical analysis for better understanding of how music and religion (or theology) interact in a selection of works whose musical designs are reflective of the kind of deep thought we associate with Bach.” [p. 5]

The SJP is foremost among these works: “In Spring 1724 Bach probed the meaning of John’s account of the Passion to a truly extraordinary degree…producing a setting that remains a milestone to this day. His involvement with John must have been an absorbing one in light of the many Johannine qualities that are closely mirrored in his Passion.” [p. 5]

Chafe characterizes each of the four extant versions of the SJP performed at the Good Friday services as follows:

1. 1724: The Evolution of the SJP begins here. It survives in a form that has to be reconstructed and retains the basic structure in a reliable form (the movement sequence and the keys involved). This exhibits clearly the Johannine qualities associated with Luther’s favorite gospel.
2. 1725: Modifications to the SJP substantially lessened its Johannine qualities. Why this was done is still a mystery although various speculations abound. Chafe calls this version an anomaly in which entire movements were replaced.
3. 1730: “An imperfect restoration” in which movements from version 1 are returned but new changes are made. Bach removed two recitatives from the synoptic gospels. Other structural changes seriously modify its character adversely.
4. At the end of Bach’s life: This is mainly a return to version 1. “An ideal conception” when combined with version 1 as in the version presented in the NBA. This is the most common form of the SJP used for performances today.

Tonal analysis is a crucial aspect of Chafe’s investigation into the theological as well as the musical structure inherent in the SJP. One of Chafe’s chief methods for analyzing Bach’s cantatas involves determining the sequence of harmonic movement throughout an entire cantata or even at times within its individual movements. For this Chafe has applied the terms catabasis [‘descent’ = a movement downwards in keys] and anabasis [‘ascent’ = an upwards movement of the same] in his more widely read and studied book Analyzing Bach Cantatas (Oxford University Press, 2000). In the latter he also used the musicological term ambitus whe explained in detail there. This would almost be a necessary prerequisite for delving into his later book presently being discussed here, although Chafe does present a good summary for the reader on pp. 182 and 193ff. For instance, in regard to the characteristics of St. John’s writing style, Chafe mentions one of them as being ‘circular repetition’ [p. 33]. This appears to be what Bach might have been imitating in music with the ambitus of the “Jesus of Nazareth” choruses where Bach completes the ‘circle-of-fifths’, a relatively, at that time, new method of modulation that was beginning to replace the older medieval and Renaissance method based upon the gamut with its overlapping hexachords. This newer method made possible by the ever increasing use of equal (or near equal) temperament during Bach’s lifetime is best illustrated by Johann David Heinichen’s circle of keys illustration found in his Neu erfundene und gründliche Anweisung (1711) on p. 261. The turba choruses form a kind of “backbone” for the symbolic trial, affirming points of tonal arrival that follow a distinctive pattern (one that is nearly identical to Heinichen’s pattern for the very first presentation of the circle of keys, in 1711.)

On pp. 138-139 [Figures 4.1 and 4.2], Chafe presents an overview of his divisions of Part 1 and 2 of the SJP with the musical key areas [flat or sharp] designated in Figure 4.1 and the ambitus and modulatory sections of the SJP clearly indicated in Figure 4.2. He discusses his observations in great detail.

Chafe’s summarizing statement regarding his research on the SJP is that the SJP “is a virtuoso piece in the musical allegorizing of theological themes.” [p. 14]>>

John’s Jesus as Christus Victor

Alfred Dürr in his Bach SJP study (pp. 33f)1 provides a clear, concise understanding of John’s unique, non-synoptic Gospel of the word and love, especially its Passion treatment of Jesus, and Bach’s musical treatment from this perspective. Dürr describes the Christus Victor symbolic characterization as “the majestic son of God,” triumphing over all adversity, and finally “lifted up” in “glory.” John’s Jesus is regal, omnipotent, and ever-lasting. Because John’s “interpretation is reflected in every detail of his account of the Passion,” says Dürr, John’s later version of the Passion story necessarily places the omens and the Last Supper earlier in his Gospel while omitting entirely the suffering in the garden, and Judas’ kiss of betrayal. In addition, John juxtaposes scenes such as Peter’s denials with Jesus confrontations with the High Priest and Pilate, as well as rearranging the order of events in comparison with the three synoptic (read-together) Gospels, especially in the confrontation scene.

Dürr cites nine key lyrical movements and lines of text (pp. 35-37) as reflections of John’s Christus Victor characterization (five of nine are chorales; No. NBA (BGA):2

1. No. 1. Chorus. Herr, unser Herrscher (Lord, our ruler, whose praise [Ps. 8:1, Your praise reaches up to the heavens] is glorious in all the lands [Ps. 8:9, O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world]).
2. No. 3(7), Chorale. O große Lieb, o Lieb ohn alle Maß (O greatest love, O love never ending), at Jesus’ arrest (Jo18:8)
3. No. 9(13), Aria. Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudigen Schritten, [I will follow you likewise with joyful steps and (I) will not let you (go)], at Peter’s denial (John 18:11), showing John’s theme of discipleship, particularly important in Lutheran tradition.
4. No. 17(27), Chorale. Ach großer König, groß zu allen Zeiten (O great king, great in all times), “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)
5. No. 22(40), Chorale. Durch dein Gefängnis (Through your imprisonment), Pliate tries to free Jesus (John 19:12a); the chorale “highlights the contrast between Jesus and Pilate,” says Dürr.
6. No. 26(52), Chorale. In meines Herzens Grunde/dein Nahm und Kreuz allein/funkeltn all Zeit und Stunde (In the recesses of my heart/thy name and cross alone/gleam at all times and hours), Pilate says, “What I have written, I have written) John 19:22); the “all Zeit und Stunde” relates to the opening chorus phrase “zu aller Zeit (in every age)
7. No. 30(58), Aria. Es ist vollbracht, der Held von Juda siegt mit Macht (It is accomplished. The hero from Judah fights with power). “Es ist vollbracht,” one of the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross, is found only in John’s Gospel (19:30a) and the line “The hero from Judah sights with Power” is given appropriate, triumphal musical treatment in the contrasting B section of Bach’s modified da-capo aria.
8. No. 32(60), Aria. Mein teurer Heiland, lass dich fragen (My precious Savior, let me ask you), Jesus dies (John 19:30b); aria includes the line “lebest nun ohn Ende” (lives now, without end)
9. No. 40(68), Closing Chorale. Ach Herr, laß dein lieb Engelein (Ah Lord, let thy dear angel small), the form of the address used, “Herr,” as well as the closing line, ich will dich preisen ewiglich” (I wish to praise thee eternally), which refers to the glorification in the opening movement, “so that the Passion text as a whole traces an (inverted) arch from majesty to lowliness and back to majesty,” says Dürr.

'Christus Victor' Atonement, Music

The concept of redemption through Christus Victor was articulated in Bach’s time by the Reformed theologian Samuel Werenfels (1657-1740) of Basel, says Jeroslav Pelikan in Ch. 8, “Christus Victor” in the St. John Passion” in Bach Among the Theologians.3 Seeking doctrinal consensus among Calvinists, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics on important issues, Werefels in the doctrine of Christ in the Eucharist (Lutheran) and transubstantiation (Catholic), “distinguished the state of humiliation in which Jesus Christ had lived on earth and had suffered the defeat of the cross from the state of glorification in which he rose victorious from the grave to live and reign forever,” says Pelikan (Ibid.: 104). It was in the state of humiliation that Christ accomplished redemption and cried out “It is finished” as the state of redemption, the cry being the sixth of seven Words from the Cross in John 19:30. The perfect sacrifice of the cross was completed “by which the justice of God was satisfied and full propitiation obtained.”

In Bach’s setting of the alto aria, “It is finished/accomplished,” the middle section tempo increases and the mood changes from somber to triumph with rushing strings replacing viola d’amore, to the text der Held von Juda siegt mit Macht (The hero from Judah fights with power).

Pelikan traces the development of the Christus Victor from the Greek Fathers and Apostle Paul to the Middle Ages and then to Martin Luther. Christ’s resurrection was seen as the victory over death in the Latin Hymn Victimae paschali laudes (praises to the Passover victim), which Luther adapted as the Easter chorale “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (Christ lies in death’s bondage). The reconciliation of Christ to God and to the world “seemed to Luther, and presumably to Bach, the most appropriate image” (Ibid.: 109) of sacrificial redemption.

At the same time, Christus Victor appears in Bach’s St. John Passion ”in conjunction with other images of atonement,” says Pelikan (Ibid.: 110). At Christ’s sufferings on the via dolorosa, also found in the Stations of the Cross, the believers recall the earlier SJP hymns (congregation) “O große Lieb) (O greatest love) Luther’s Lord’s Prayer, “Dein will’ gescheh” (Thy will be done) at the beginning when Jesus is captured.

Following “It is fulfilled,” the bass solo sings “Mein teurer Heiland” (My precious Savior) and the chorus replies, “Jesu, der du warest tot, / lebest nun ohn Ende” (Jesus, you were dead, / and now live for ever), “echoing the language of justice and merit, guilt and satisfaction,” says Pelikan (Ibid.: 110).

Also cited are the “Christological titles of majesty” (Ibid.: 112f) such as the opening chorus, “Herr, unser Herrscher” (Lord, our ruler), the chorale “Ach grosser König” (O, great King). “It is in keeping with this portrait of Christ and with this characterization of the enemies [the crowd] that most of the traditional metaof “Christus Victor’ appear at crucial points, Pelikan observes (Ibid.: 113). It is particularly noticeable at the climax of the SJP, when Christ stands captive before Pilate, at the chorale “Durch dein Gefängnis” (Through your imprisonment).

While theologians often contrast the atonement through satisfaction found in the similar synoptic Gospel accounts of the Passion with atonement as victory in John’s Gospel and Luther’s perspective, “usually at the expense of the former” -- by “solemnizing the former” in the SMP and “celebrating the latter” in the SJP, Pelikan concludes Ibid.: 115), “Bach demonstrated once again his refusal to choose from among alternatives that had equally legitimate authority in his tradition.”



1 Dürr Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John Passion: Genesis, Transmission and Meaning (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), English translation Alfred Clayton; from Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1988.
2 SJP Details & Discography, BCW
3 Peilkan, Bach Among the Theologians (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1986: 102-115).


More to Come

William Hoffman wrote (March 25, 2016):
St. John Passion: Fugitive Notes

The four versions of Bach’s St. John Passion, BWV 245 (SJP), represent variants of the biblical and theological perspectives as found in Bach’s selection of biblical narrative texts, use of chorales, and lyrical chorus and aria commentaries: 1724, John Chapters 18 and 19, the usual version with the addition from the Matthew (Chapters 26-27) Passion account of Peter weeping at his betrayal of Jesus and the rending of the veil of the temple (Mathew); 1725 version with the substitution of chorale choruses and arias that emphasized more the theological theme of Satisfaction as Atonement; 1728 or 1732, return to 1724 version but removal of non-Johannine references to Peter weeping and temple veil rending, for a John-only Christus Victor emphasis; 1739/1749, return to 1724 version with changes to the poetic texts and richer chorale harmonization.1

The Christus Victory concept is analyzed in Michael Marissen’s “Theology of the Cross.”2 It seems strange that “the evidence for Jesus being a majestic King is located in the lowliness of the cross.” Lutheranism emphasizes “glorification through abasement. And Bach’s music projects it profoundly.” Luther says “one finds God ‘hidden in opposites’.” While there is misery, “God is with us.” For Luther, “Faith is confidence in what is unseen,” “in opposition to experience.” The Theology of the Cross “can be a model for one’s life, in that one’s suffering is to be taken as a sign not of God’s abandonment but of his presence.”

The most dramatic and theological change was the 1725 version, in which the language of the Anselm Satisfaction as Atonement concept of Jesus’ Christ’s sacrifice was more prominent, particularly with the substitution of the original opening and closing choruses with chorale choruses, observes Jeroslav Pelikan in Bach Among the Theologians.3

In place of the beginning chorus, “Herr, unser Herrscher, dessen Ruhm / In allen Landen herrlich ist!” (Lord, our ruler, whose glory / is magnificent everywhere!), came the Sebald Heyden 1525 epic 23-Stanza Passion hymn, “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß” (Oh man, bewail your great sin), while the closing chorus “Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine” (Rest in peace, you sacred limbs), was replaced by the German Agnus Dei, “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” (O Christ, thou Lamb of God). Both changes “were better suited to the language of sacrifice and satisfaction than to that of ‘Christus Victor’.” These two choruses probably were composed for Bach’s 1717 Gotha Passion oratorio. Subsequently, “O Mensch, bewein” became the closing of the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (in 1736) and “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” retained its place closing Cantata BWV 23, “Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn” You true God and son of David” for pre-Lenten Quinquagesima Estomihi.

The three “imported” arias also address the sacrifice/satisfaction concept in place of the eventually restored originals.

Bass aria “Himmel reiße, Welt erbebe” (Heavens open, earth shudder) with the Paul Stockman canto, “Jesu, deine Passion,” verse 33 from his 1636 Passion narrative “Jesu Leiden, Pein, und Tod” (Jesus sorrow, pain, and death) was inserted after Peter’s weeping (no. 12a), although the aria refers to the earthquake and rending the temple veil. The tenor aria, “Zerschmettert mich ihr Felsen (Cover me, you rocks), replaced the succeeding aria (no. 13), “Ach, mein Sinn, / Wo willt du endlich hin” (Ah, my soul / where will you go) although the text refers to Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (23:31) warning the Daughters of Jerusalem that they will wish that the hills cover them when the Temple is destroyed. The tenor aria, “Ach windet euch nicht so” (Ah, writhe you not), replaced the bass arioso (no. 19), “Betrachte, meine Seel, mit ängstlichem Vergnügen” (Consider, my soul, with anxious delight), at the appropriate place where Pilate scourges Jesus. The score for these graphic arias (BWV 245a-c) are found at BCW

1725 Chorale Chorus, Aria Substitutions

While it is difficult to describe the 12 chorales in the SJP as either sacrifice/satisfaction or Christus Victor, the additions in the 1725 version of 23-verse “O Mensch” and another verse of the pietist “Jesu Leiden” chorale represent the former concept. In fact, the latter 34-verse hymn, is the signature chorale for the SJP. In all, Bach set three stanzas: No. 12a, 1725 insert, soprano canto “Jesu, deine Passion” (Jesus, thy Passion, S. 33); No. 14 “Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück, / Seinen Gott verneinet” (Peter, who does not think back at all, / denies his God, S. 10); and No. 28 (20), “Er nahm alles wohl in acht / In der letzten Stunde” (He thought carefully of everything / in his last hour). Gerhardt’s 1648 Passion chorale, “O Welt, sieh hier dein Leben” (O World, see here thy life), set to the melody “O Welt, ich muss dich lassen” (O world, I must leave thee), is the only chorale appearing in all three Bach Passions. Various verses of “O Sacred Head now wounded” (O Haupt voll blut und Wuenden) appear six times in the St. Matthew Passion and three times in the St. Mark Passion but not in the SJP. For the full texts of “O Mensch, bewein” and “Jesu, Leiden,” see Bach Yahoo Groups current posting on email.

Although there is no definitive version of the SJP, “multiple perspectives of a work that survives in several versions can be immensely illuminating,” says Daniel Melamed in Ch. 4, “Which St. John Passion,” in Hearing Bach’s Passions.4 Meanwhile, he says, “the movements unique to version ii include some stunning music; and there is a fascinating insight to be gained in hearing” this version that begins with “O Mensch, bewein” “and then takes a different theological approach to the story” (Ibid.: 76f).

The reasons Bach left divergent versions of the SJP have been debated by many Bach scholars, beginning with Bach choice of John’s unique account first in Leipzig at the Good Friday vespers in 1724. The initial answer is that John has the shortest story. However, this ignores history where the various SJP settings of Schßtz, Schelle, and Postel set a standard for musical, biblical accounts; the SJP offers a unique perspective on redemption; and in Leipzig, the designated reading at the Friday Vespers with its musical setting is John’s Christus Victor account. Further, Bach’s setting saved considerable time it would have taken for the presiding pastor and sermon preacher to read the full gospel account before preaching the sermon as a commentary on the appointed Gospel reading. Suffice is to say that the inherent nature of John’s unique account, without the synoptic preparation and ritual, with its drawn-out trial scenes but lack of via dolorosa, did not lend itself to a rich, synoptic narrative account of acts and scenes with opportunities for pauses for commentarie. Bach dealt with the hand he was given, and played three substantial games. For the music and a detailed musical analysis of Bach’s four versions, see Helmut Rilling’s Hänssler recording with Andreas Glöckner’s essay, “The concrete forms given to a musical conception – the versions of the St. John Passion” of JSB.5

Passion Liturgy with SJP

In 2014, author and Bach scholar John Butt and the Dunedin Consort released on Linn Records his reconstruction of Bach's Leipzig Good Friday Passion Vespers liturgy reconstruction (
Ancient Passion hymn Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund ("There Jesus on the cross hung");
Part 1 of the Passion;
Hymn O Lamm Gottes unschuldig ("O Lamb of God, guiltless"), the text being the metrical version of 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;
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"); Blessing (Benediction).

The hymn “O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid” ("O darkest woe, o heart's pain") followed the motet, according to Johann Christoph Rosten, St. Thomas sexton, but it is not usually listed. In addition at the vespers, the Old Testament reading was the Introit Psalm 22, Deus, Deus, meus (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?), the penultimate of the Seven Last Words of Christ, uttered by Jesus but found only in Mark 15:36 and Matthew 27:46, followed by “It is finished,” only in John (19:30). The other Old Testament reading is Isaiah 52:13-15, “The Suffering Servant,” compared to Christ on the cross (V. 14, KJV): “Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.”

Butt in his liner notes offers a keen perspective on the Leipzig origins of Bach’s SJP. At the same time that the Leipzig opera folded about 1717, advocates at the progressive Neue Kirche decided to present Telemann’s “Brockes” Passsion dramatic Passion oratorio, a non-biblical summa account not unlike the two, long-standing narrative chorales, “O Mensch, bewein” and “Jesu Leiden.” More good fortune enable Bach’s predecessor as Thomas School Cantor and Leipzig music director, Johann Kuhnau, in 1722 to compose a biblical account oratorio Passion, St. Mark, which actually has the shortest text of the three synoptic accounts.

“Thus Bach’s Oratorio Passions doubled all the essential elements of the service itself: the reading from Scripture, the communal response in the chorales; the more subjective and meditative element of prayer in the arias,” says Butt. “The chorale, arias and meditative choruses also drew theological or spiritual points out of the story and thus doubled the role of the sermon” as a musical sermon, like his cantatas.

Butt adds the following comments: “Bach and his (anonymous librettist could draw on a rich heritage of devotional writing, some of which was specifically designed to be sung.” “John’s account omits much of the suffering [passion] which Jesus must have experienced as a human being; rather, every adverse event is turned into a celebration of the fulfillment of the plan.” “What does come across in performance is the relentlessness of the events,” “the sense of inevitability.” “Only the aria, together with the opening and closing choruses, display the more luscious, affective style of Bach’s mature writing.”


Regarding the special nature of the 1725 version with imported music and emphasis on chorales with the sacrificial theme, Butt suggests, as do other commentators such as Melamed, that “Presumably to avoid repetition, he modified the piece considerably.”

Finally, here is a synthesis of Laurence Dreyfus’ thesis in “Musical Poetics in Bach’s St. John Passion.6 Bach’s “musical point of view” in the SJP arias “clearly flout reasonable eighteenth-century standards of text-setting. His texts “spark a dominant instrumental melody” to which he “also attaches signs, genres, and styles foreign to the text.” Bach’s “musical diligence and ever-inventive permutations teach listeners to see one experience through the focused lenses of another, rejecting long-esteblished notions of musical propriety and resemblance.”


1 SJP Details & Discography, BCW
2 Marissen in Lutheranism, Anti-Jusaism and Bach’s St. John Passion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998: 18).
3 Peilkan, Bach Among the Theologians (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1986: 111).
4 Melamed, Hearing Bach’s Passions (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2005: 77).
5Rilling, BCW Recording details,, V-18.
6 Dreyfus in J. S. Bach and the Oratorio Tradition, ed. Daniel R. Melamed (Urbana IL: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011: 119); Bach Perspective 8, American Bach Society.


Postscript: Does anyone have any favorite quotes from the liner notes of their favorite SJP recording – or other comments?

William Hoffman wrote (March 25, 2016):
'O Mensch, bewein complete text

O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß,
Darum Christus seins Vaters Schoß
Äußert und kam auf Erden;
Von einer Jungfrau rein und zart
Für uns er hie geboren ward,
Er wollt der Mittler werden,
Den Toten er das Leben gab
Und legt dabei all Krankheit ab
Bis sich die Zeit herdrange,
Daß er für uns geopfert würd,
Trüg unser Sünden schwere Bürd
Wohl an dem Kreuze lange.!

O man, weep for your great sins
Because of which Christ left his Father’s bosom
And came upon the earth;
From a young woman pure and gentle
He was born here for us.
He wanted to become our mediator,
To the dead he gave life
And removed in this way all sickness
Until the time came
When he was sacrificed for us,
Bore the heavy burden of our sins
For a long time on the cross,

2. Dann als das Fest der Juden kam
Jesus sein Jünger zu ihm nahm
Gar bald thät er ihn'n sagen :
Des Menschen Sohn verrathen wird
Ans Kreutz geschlagen und ermördt
Darauf die Juden tagen.
In Simons Haus ein Fraue kam
Viel köstlich's wasser zu ihr nahm
Thäts übern Herren giessen
Etlich der Jüngen murrten bald
JEsus die fraue gar nicht schalt
Das thät Judam verdriessen.

When it was time for the feast of the Jews
Jesus gathered his disciples to himself
and told them:
The son of man will be betrayed,
Nailed to the cross and put to death
As the Jews plan.
A woman entered Simon’s house,
she brought precious perfume with her
she poured it over the Lord.
Several of disciples started to grumble
Jesus did not reproach the woman
this exasperated Judas

3. Judas zum Hohenpriester lauft,
Den Herrn verrät und ihn verkauft
Für dreissig Silbergroschen.
Als Jesus mit den Jüngern kam
Und ass mit ihn’n das Osterlamm
War schon sein Tod beschlossen !
Dann setzt er ein sein Testament, ,
Dass wir es feiern bis ans End,
Sein Opfer zu bedenken.
Den Jüngern waschet er die Füss’,
Er zeiget seine Liebe gross,
Dass sie dem Beispiel folgen.

Judas went to the high priest,
he betrayed the Lord and sold him
for thirty pieces of silver.
When Jesus came his disciples
and at with them the Passover lamb
his death was already decided.
Then he instituted his testament
So that we might celebrate it forever,
to commemorate the sacrifice.
He washed the feet of his disciples
he showed his great love
so that we might follow his example.

4. Danach am Ölberg Jesus klagt,
Mit Furcht und Zittern dort er sagt :
„Betet mit mir und wachet!“
Ein Steinwurf weit er vorwärts ging ,
Zum Vater sprach und so anfing:
O Gott, du kannst das machen,
Dass dieser Kelch geh weg von mir,
Denn alle Ding’ sind möglich dir.
Doch es gescheh dein Wille ! »
Vom Vater solches dreimal bat,
Dreimal er zu den Jüngen trat :
Sie schliefen alle stille !

Then on the Moof olives Jesus lamented,
with fear and trembling he said there:
“Watch and pray with me!”
He went a stones throw further on,
spoke to his father and so began:
O God, you can make
this chalice go away from me,
since all things are possible for you.
But may your will be done!”
Three times he made such prayer to the father, three times he returned to his disciples:
they were all sound asleep

5. Er sprach : „Schlaft ihr in meinem Leid ?
Wacht auf, die Stunde ist bereit,
Ich werde nun gegeben
In Hand der Sünder. Stehet auf,
Der mich verrät, der wartet drauf,
Dass mich mein’ Feinde fangen !
Als er noch red’t, sieh, Judas kam,
Ein’ grosse Schar er mit sich nahm
Mit Spiessen und mit Stangen.
Ein Zeichen der Verräter gab :
„Welchen ich küsse, merket ab:
Der ist’s, den sollt ihr fangen !

He said:” Are you sleeping in my sorrow?
Stay awake, the hour is at hand,
I shall now be given
into the hands of sinners. Arise,
he who betrays me is waiting
for my enemies to seize me .
While he was still speaking, see, Judas came,
He brought a great crowd with him
with spears and staves.
The traitor gave them a sign:
take note of the man whom I kiss.
He is the one you should seize!

6. Jesus, der wusste all das Ding,
Trat vor und ihn’n entgegen ging
Und sprach sie an mit Güte :
„ Was macht ihr hier mit solcher G’walt ?
Suchet ihr mich ? Ich bin es halt!“
Sie fielen auf den Boden !
Durch Judas Kuss ist er erkennt,
Der Haufen nun auf Jesus rennt
Und fangt ihn fest mit Seilen.
Petrus greift an sein Schwert und schlägt,
Haut ab ein Ohr des Priesters Knecht:
Jesus das Ohr ihm heilet !

Jesus, who knew exactly what was going on,
stepped forward and went to meet them
spoke to them with kindness:
“What are you doing here with such force?
Are you looking for me? Here I am!”
They fell to the ground!
Through Judas’s kiss he was recognised.
The crowd now ran up to Jesus and held him fast with ropes.
Peter grasped his sword and struck off
the ear of the priests servant
Jesus healed his ear!



7. « Nicht mit dem Schwert, ach, Petrus, nein!
Ich muss den Kelch austrinken rein,
Den mir Gott hat gegeben ! »
Die Schar führt Jesus zum Hannas,
Dann bringt sie ihn zum Kaiphas,
Gefangen und gefesselt.
Petrus im Hof des Priesters stand :
Von vielen Leut’ dreimal erkannt,
Verleugnet er den Herren !
Kaiphas fragt Jesus : „ Wer bist du ? “
Sie riefen Zeugen noch dazu,
Um ihn hart zu beschweren.

Not with the sword, ah, Peter, no!
I must drink fully this chalice
God has given to me!
The crowd led Jesus to Annas,
Then they took him to Kaiphas
Captive and chained
Peter stood in the courtyard of the high priest,When he was recog nised three times by many people, he denied the Lord!
Caiphas asked Jesus : “Who are you?”
They called witnesses also
To bring serious charges against him

8. Christus antwortet ihnen nicht.
Der Hohepriester zu ihm spricht :
„Was willst du dazu sagen ?
Ich schwör’ dich bei dem Gotte mein,
Sag, bist du Christus, der Sohn sein? “
Er antwort’t ohne Zagen :
„Ich bin’s und sag : zu dieser Zeit,
Werd’t ihr des Menschen Sohn von weit
Auf Wolken sehen kommen,
Und an der Rechten Gottes sein ! “
Kaiphas zerriss das Kleide sein
Und sprach : „ Ihr habt’s vernommen !“

Christ gave him no reply.
The chief priest said:
“What do you want to say about this?
I abjure you by my God,
Tell us, are you Christ, his son?”
He replied without hesitation:
“ I am and I say :at this time
You will see from far the son of man
Coming on the clouds
And at the right hand of God!”
Caiphas tore his clothes
And said : “You have heard him!

C. I + II


9. „Er hat gelästert Gott, den Herrn,
Was solln wir weiter ihn aushörn? “
Sie sprachen : „ Er soll sterben ! “
Und spuckten ihm ins Angesicht,
Auf ihn sie schlugen im Gericht
Mit Schreien und Gelächter.
Sie deckten ihm das Antlitz zu,
Schlugen mit Fäusten, und dazu
Fragten : „Wer hat geschlagen ? “
Am Morgen früh all das geschah,
Der Sonnenaufgang war ganz nah :
Das musste Christ schon tragen !

He has blasphemed God the Lord!
Why should we listen any more to him? "
They said:" He should die",
and spat in his face'
they struck him in the court
with cries and laughter.
They covered his face,
hit him with their fists and then
asked:"Who hit you ?"
All this happened early on the next day
It was nearly dawn.
Christ had to bear this

10. Dann zu Pilatus ging es hin.
Als Judas sah, was ward aus ihm,
Kam auf ihn schlimme Reue !
Das Geld er bald den Priestern gab :
„Wie schwer ich doch gesündigt hab,
Wie gross ist mein’ Untreue ! “
Er hing sich auf und brach entzwei.
Die Priester fragten sich dabei :
„Was tun mit diesem Gelde ?
Des Töpfers Acker kaufen wir,
Zum Friedhof für die Pilger hier. “
So hat’s die Schrift gemeldet.

Then they all went to Pilate.
When Judas saw what became of him,
He felt terrible remorse.
He gave back the money to the priests:
“ How seriously I have sinned,
How great is my unfaithfulness!”

The priests debated amongst themselves:
“What should we do with this money?
Let us buy the potter’s field
As a cemetery for pilgrims.”
This is reported in scripture

11. Als Jesus vor Pilatus stand,
Schrien sie laut, ausser Verstand,
Mit folgender Anklage :
„Dem Kaiser will er widerstehn
Und nennet sich ein Gottes Sohn,
Verführt das Volk alltage.“
Pilatus ihm viel Fragen stellt,
Aber der Herr kein Antwort meldt ;
Darüber er sich wundert.
Dann zu Herodes schickt er ihn.
Herodes freut sich darauf hin :
Er wollte sehn ein Wunder !

When Jesus stood before Pilate
shouted loudly and madly,
with the following accusations:
“he wants to oppose Caesar
and calls himself the son of God,
he leads the people astray constantly.”
Pilate asked him many questions,
but the Lord gave him no answer.
He was amazed at this.
Then he sent him on to Herod.
Herod was pleased by this:
he wanted to see a miracle!

12. Da Jesus auch kein Antwort gab,
Verachtet ihn Herodes grob,
Schickt ihn Pilatus wieder
Der Römer zu den Priestern sprach :
„Herodes auch den Menschen sah
Und blieb doch unentschieden.“
Jedes Jahr üblich auf dem Fest,
Einer das G’fängnis frei verlässt:
Jesus will ich frei geben.
Sie schrien all mit lauter Stimm :
„ Schlag Jesus an des Kreuzes Stamm !
Barrabas wolln wir haben ! “

When Jesus made no reply to him also,
Herod felt great contempt for him,
he sent him back to Pilate.
The Roman said to the priests:
“Herod also saw the man
and remained still undecided.
Each year customarily at the feast
One man: is released from prison:
I shall set Jesus free.”
They all cried with loud voice:
“Nail Jesus on the cross!
We want to have Barabbas

13. So wurde Jesus ausgepeitscht
Von den Soldaten allerseits
Und mit Purpur gekleidet.
Aus Dornen flochten sie die Kron,
Ihm setzten auf mit Hass und Hohn,
Mit G’walt und ohn’ Mitleiden.
Sie grüssen ihn : „Dir König, heil !“
Und ziehen ihn am Narrenseil,
Mit Schimpfwort und mit Schanden.
Pilatus spricht : „Hier ist der Mann !
In ihm kein Bös’s ich strafen kann :
Es ist ja kein’s vorhanden ! “

So Jesus was whipped
by the soldiers on all sides
and clothed with purple.
They wove a crown of thorns
and put it on him with hate and scorn,
violently and without pity.
They greeted him: Hail to you!
They made a fool of him
with abuse and ignominy.
Pilate said: “here is the man !
I can find no evil to punish in him:
there is nothing ofthat sort!

14. Sie schrien auf mit lauter Stimm :
“Ans Kreuz, ans Kreuz, mach Schluss mit ihm,
Sonst bist du Caesars Feinde ! “
Als nun Pilatus hört’ dies Wort,
Setzt’t er sich an des Richters Ort,
Wusch öffentlich die Hände ;
Erliess den Mörder Barrabas
Und Jesus an das Kreuze gab,
Nach ihrem falschen Willen.
Sein’ Kleider sie auszogen ihm
Und führten ihn mit grosser Stimm ;
Das Kreuz truer in Stil

They kept shouting more loudly:
crucify him crucify him make an end of him
or your Caesar’s enemy,
when Pilate heard this word,
he sat down in the judge’s seat,
publicly washed his hands.
He let the murderer Barabbas go free
and gave Jesus to be crucified,
in accordance with their mistaken desire.
He stripped his clothes from him
And led him away with loud calls;
He carried the cross calmly.

I + II
15. Als sie nun gingen mit ihm auf,
Zwangen sie Simon, dass er lauf’
Und ihm das Kreuz nachtrage.
Viel Volk und Frauen standen da,
Doch Jesus, der sie weinen sah,
Wandte sich um und sagte :
„ Nein, weinet ja nicht über mich,
Weint, Töchter Zion über euch
Und über eure Kinder !
Ihr werdet sprechen : „ Selig, die
Unfruchtbar ist und säugte nie,
Wenn kommt der Tag des Endes.“

As they went on their way with him,
They enlisted Simon who was passing by
and forced him to bear the cross as well.
Many people and women were standing by
but Jesus, when he saw them weeping,
turned to them and said:
“No, don’t weep for me,
weep, daughters of Zion, for yourselves
and for your children.
You will say: “Happy is the woman
who is barren and never suckled a child
when the last day comes

16. So kamen sie zu Golgatha.
Zwei Übeltäter waren da,
Die man auch schlug ans Holze
Zur linken und zur rechten Hand,
Wie es die Schrift lägst gab bekannt.
Dann sprach der Herr am Kreuze:
„ Vater, verzeih ihn’n diese Tat,
Sie wissen nicht die Missetat ! “
Pilatus liess aufschreiben,
Hebräisch, griechsich und latein:
„ Jesus, der Mann aus Nazareth
Und der König der Juden.

So they came to Golgotha.
Two criminals were there,
who had been fixed to wooden crosses
on the right and left hand,
as it is known from Scripture.
Then: the Lord spoke on the cross:
Father forgive them what they are doing,
I do not know it is a crime!”
Pilate had written up
in Hebrew Greek and Latin:
Jesus, the man from Nazareth
and the king of the Jews.

17. Als Jesus so am Kreuze hing,
Nahm man sein Kleider und gig hin,
Sie durch das Los zu teilen.
Die Mutter Jesu stand nicht weit,
Johannes war an ihrer Seit ;
Jesus sprach zu den beiden :
„ Dies ist dein Sohn, Weib, nimm ihn an;
Dies ist dein’ Mutter von nun an ! “
Johann sie zu sich nehmet.
Die Hohen Priester trieben Spott,
Schrien ihm laut mit schroffen Wort’ : :
„ Bist du’s, der von Gott kommet ? “

As Jesus was hanging on the cross,
they took his clothes and gave them away,
they shared them out by lots.
Jesus mother stood not far away,
John was at her side.
Jesus said to both of them:
“this is your son, woman, accept him;
from now on this is your mother”,
John accepted her.
The high priests mocked him,
they cried to him curtly:
“are you the man who comes from God?”

18. „ Bist du doch Gottes lieber Sohn,
Dann steig vom Kreuz, hilf dir davon ! “
So sprachen auch die Schächer.
Doch einer von den zweien rief :
„ Dieser, der ist unschuldig hier !
Jesus, erbarm dich meiner,
Wenn du bist in dem Reiche dein ! “
Er sprach: „ Heut wirst du bei mir sein
Im Paradiese Gottes ! “
Finsternis kam zur sechsten Stund.
Um neun Uhr, aus seins Herzensgrund,
Schrie Jesus diese Worte :

If you are God’s dear son,
then come down from the cross, help yourself.
The thieves also spoke in this way.
But one of the two called out:
this man here is innocent!
Jesus have pity on me
when you are in your kingdom.
He said: “today you will be with me
in God’s paradise
at the six-hour there was darkness
and at the ninth hour,from the depths of his heart
Jesus cried these words.

19. „Mein Gott, mein Gott, wie läss’st du mich !“
Zur Antwort reichet man Essig
Und gibt es ihm zu trinken.
Als Jesus den versuchet hatt’,
Sprach er : „Mein Gott, es ist vollbracht !“
Und liess sein Haupte sinken.
“ O Vater, in den Händen dein
Befehl ich dir den Geiste mein,“
Schrie er mit starker Stimme.
Die Felsen sprangen ganz furchtbar,
Im Tempel, der Vorhang sogar
Entzwei riss bis nach unten !

“My God, my God, why do you forsake me!”
In reply they fetched vinegar
and gave it him to drink.
When Jesus had tried it,
he said: “My God, it is accomplished!”
And he bowed his head.
“O father, in your hands
I entrust my spirit to you,
he cried out with a loud voice.
Rocks split terrifyingly,
in the temple the curtain
was torn from top to bottom

20. Die Erde fing zu beben an,
Viel Gräber wurden aufgetan.
Der Hauptmann und sein’ Leute
Sprachen: „ Fürwahr, ein frommer war’s,
Ein Gottes Sohn, dies zeiget das“ !
Und schlugen sich die Bruste.
Als man den Schächern brach die Bein,
War Jesus tot, ihm brach man keins:
Sie stachen ihm die Seite ;
Daraus rann Wasser mit dem Blut :
Der es bezeugt, der sah es gut.
Die Schrift erzählt es heute.

The earth began to shake,
many graves were opened.
This ensuring and his men said,
truly this was a righteous man,
shows was the son of God
and they struck him on the chest.
When they broke the legs of the thieves,
Jesus was dead and so they do not break his legs: they speared him in the side.
Water with blood run out.
An eyewitness testifies this,
Scripture relates it today.

21. Nach dem, als dann der Abend kam,
Der fromme Joseph Jesus nahm
Vom Kreuz, ihn zu begraben.
Auch Nikodemus dazu kam,
Viel Aloes und Myrrhe nahm,
Um Jesus einzusalben.
Nicht weit von Golgatha entfernt,
Da war ein Grab, gehau’n im Berg,
In steiler Felsenmauer.
Sie legten Jesu leib darein,
Darüber rollten sie den Stein ,
Und gingen weg mit Trauer.

Afterwards when it was evening,
The pious Joseph took Jesus down
from the cross to bury him
Nicodemus came also
brought much myrrhand spices with him
to embalm Jesus.
Not far from Golgotha
there was a tomb carved in rock
with a high stone wall .
They placed Jesus’s body inside,
rolled the stone into place
and went their way in sorrow.

22. Am Sanstag ruht er in dem Grab.
Frühmorgens dann, am dritten Tag,
Steht Jesus auf gewaltig !
Er öffnet uns sein Himmelreich,
Und spricht uns, treu und gnadenreich,
Von Sünden frei und ledig.
Darum wir sollen fröhlich sein,
Dass unser Retter, er allein,
Christus, hat überwunden
Für uns die Sünd und ihre Not,
Dazu die Hölle und den Tod :
Der Teufel liegt gebunden !

On Saturday he rests in the grave.
Then early in the , on the third day,
Jesus rises up in power!
He opens for us his heavenly kingdom
and says to us, faithfully and mercifully
that we are free and delivered from our sins.
For this reason we should be joyful
that our saviour, only he,
Christ, has overcome
for us sins and their distress,
with them hell and death:
the devil lies bound.

I + II
23. Christus für uns litt grosse Pein,
Drum lasset uns ihm dankbar sein,
Nach seinem Willen leben.
Weil uns sein Wort so helle scheint,
Lasset uns sein der Sünde feind
Und täglich danach streben ;
Die Lieb’ erzeigen jedermann;
Wie Christus an uns hat getan
Mit seinem Leiden, Sterben.
O Menschenkind, betracht das recht,
Wie Gottes Zorn die Sünde schlägt :
Tu dich davor bewahren !

Christ suffered great pain for us,
therefore let us be thankful,
and live according to his will.
Because his word shines so clearly for us,
let us be enemies of sins
each day strive in this way
to show love for everybody
as Christ has done for us
with his suffering and death.
O human race, consider what is right,
since God’s anger strikes sins
protect yourself from it!

Peter Smaill wrote (March 25, 2016):
[Regarding Fugitive Notes]
John Butt's liturgical reconstruction, much aided by Robin Leaver, was performed on Good Friday in 2014 in the Herderkirche in Weimar. It was clear the audience was greatly moved by hearing the Johannes-Passion in an approximation of its original setting. While there was no sermon, for the diehards the Linn recording provides a Neumeister one by download, appropriate to this most sacred day.

In many ways the pursuit of historicist accuracy in reviving the devotional atmosphere of early eighteenth century Lutheranism ostensibly is at odds with Butt's book on the Passions, "Bach's Dialogue with Modernity." (Hereafter, "Modernity") For example, the juxtaposition of the motet "Ecce quomodo moritur iustus", by Jacob Handl Gallus, was an archaism even at the time. The sombre unison chorales (mercifully if incorrectly interspersed with choral harmonisations alternately) create an austere tone; the benediction, "Gott sei uns gnaedig und barmherzig", set to the tune of the German Magnificat, the tonus peregrinus, is more antiquated still. Yet this construct allows the listener to appreciate very much the Dreyfus comment- the arias in particular would have been shocking to ears used to Schuetz-like settings; Schelle, Rosenmueller et al. For us these demonstrative, often violent and extrovert declamatory arias are an established part of the early formation of the classical canon, rather trad for many.

This problem of subjectivity of response in much taken up in "Modernity". Is Bach scholarship heading towards a historically-informed performance style.? Unequivocally so. But, as has been said elsewhere, we are never able to become a historically-informed audience; however much is read about the theologian Rambach, and pastor Weiss, or Superintendent Deyling, and however many sermons by Pfeiffer or Mueller we read, it is never quite possible to enter into the spontaneous mindset of the congregations of Leipzig on Good Friday 1724.

For Butt it seems that it is just as legitimate, having shorn the great work of its communal-choral trappings of yesteryear, to accept that the internal dialogue within the work (aided by Johannine antitheses) allows the modern listener to emerge from hearing and studying the work with a valid personal perspective. In this thesis Butt disavows his book as musicology as such, for it ranges far and wide into the philosophical discourse (Liebniz and Spinoza to the fore). Quite how the intellectual atmosphere of Leipzig was actually affected is a subject for another day, and it is a matter of zeitgeist in which the human drama empowered by the new freedoms of the Neumeister-type Cantata were then transferred to the dramatic possibilities of the Passion narrative.

One point made by Butt is that the John Passion, anchored in the declaration of Christ as Lord in the opening chorus, is a more static work in terms of textual effect, than the ever-moving Matthaus-Passion; especially in the Marissen translations of the Matthew, the concept of time is persistent. "In two days " "when...when...when.." "then" "on the first day" "Now my time is here""from this moment" "until the finish" "in this same night""three times" "one hour" "at this hour" "Until the time""now" "from henceforth" "When the morning came" "evermore!" . In the John Passion, while also having a narrative to progress, the stasis is "Zu aller Zeit" (for evermore) in the opening chorus ; and the last word of the closing chorale, "ewigkeit", a final Eternity!

There is much more to stimulate the inquisitive reader in "Modernity"; including a discussion of modernity itself. When did the modern age begin? At the Reformation? On conclusion of the thirty Years War in 1630: brooding over young Bach in 1700, just as in 2016 we are still haunted by WW2 after a similar period? Or the year 1700 itself, when Man defied Julian by moving to the Gregorian calendar and eradicating two weeks between February 18 and March 1st? All this charged atmosphere, Butt suggest, led to a "subjectivization of eschatology", in which the destiny of the believer could be expressed more freely in artistic terms than in centuries before.

Butt's book has many fascinating avenues to explore like this. There are as usual the questions of hermeneutics- Smend's "Herzstuck"; tonal allegory (Chafe); outside of the book,the thesis that there are actually 41 movements (numerological Bach, a theory of Bill Scheide). More recently, Ruth Tatlow, after confidently pointing out that the Matthew has exactly 2800 bars, also, but more tentatively depicts the revisions of the SJP as intending a 2010 bar count with several instances of 2:1 substructures.

Then there are the many commentators who have seen the cross prefigured in the settings of the word with saltus duriusculus or other awkward leaps embracing four notes; as with the four sharps of the central chorale "Durch dein Gefaegnis", joining the fourth and last ; then juxtaposing a line drawn from second to third produces a cross sign. Butt is reserved on all this: there is no denying, for example, the diversity of keys in the Passions but they allow the listener a varied acoustic experience which is a consideration in such a long work. (One, in the B Minor Mass, denied us due to the need to match the trumpets' incessant need for D major).Whether at all times anabasis/catabasis or the circle of fifths is being pursued is questionable. In the case of "Kreuzige!" and "Kreuz", while word-painting is often apparent, there are many occasions when the flow of the recitative inclines Bach to gloss over the word so as not to interrupt the narrative.

So from the Butt view, Bach has created many and varied substrates of meaning without ever enslaving his expressive art to any one formula. If there is a creative tension with other scholars, it may lie in the direction of Eric Chafe, whose work on tonal allegory Butt warmly acknowledges even while expressing a cautionary note. I'm not sure that their approaches to the Johannes -Passion are irreconcilable;"the more we study Bach's works, the clearer it becomes that his own interaction with the religious ideas of his time and surroundings is an intricate one.", says Chafe in "J S Bach's Johannine Theology", itself a ground-breaker in relating the Ziegler cantatas to the Passion that preceded them, on theological rather than any stylistic or pragmatic grounds. this brief review I'd encourage the encounter with Butt's recording (a must-have) and both the Chafe and Butt books: no easy read in either case but rewarding in making the journey to developing a personal understanding of this monumental and transformative work. For, as with the Cantatas, Bach is writing for the listening, questing congregation- for the ease of the performers or the as-yet-unborn world of musicology, however much we also owe to them.........

Charles Francis wrote (March 25, 2016):
[To William Hoffman, regarding 'O Mensch, bewein complete text] The count of verses (23) presumably reflects incompleteness. I'm guessing the whole thing might have been intoned on Good Friday to help the congregation identify with the suffering of Christ. Perhaps this was only done when no Passion music was performed?

William Hoffman wrote (March 25, 2016):
[Regarding 'O Mensch, bewein complete text]
Bach Cantatas Yahoo: Re: [BachCantatas] Apocryphal St. Luke Passion, BWV 246: Introduction: Spitta JSBII:510f, lists various liturgical chorale Passions (texts only), similar to Kuhnau's< St. Mark Passion> and the Bach apocryphal <St. Luke Passion>. They are the Rudolstadt St. Matthew Passion, 1729 (28 chorales); Gera Passion, nd (25 chorales); Gotha St. Matthew Passion, 1707 (19); Schleiz Passion, 1729 (27 chorales); and Weißenfels Passion, 1733 (33). In these settings in various German towns, no composer is listed and the lyrics involve hymns as well as Litany and <Te Deum> passages, also found in the apocryphal <St. Luke Passion.>

William Hoffman wrote (March 28, 2016):
[To Peter Smaill, regarding Fugitive Notes]
Thank you for the updated, comprehensive overview of the SJP and its time and context with ours. Daniel Melamed in Hearing Bach's Passions has updated his 2005 OUP book. Here is his latest abstract:

The key is: "We have trouble imagining the familiar material of Bach's passion settings in any other guise. We can learn about these issues by exploring the sources that transmit Bach's passion settings today, performance practice (including the question of the size of Bach's ensemble), delving into the passions as dramatic music, examining the problem of multiple versions of a work and the reconstruction of lost pieces, exploring the other passions in Bach's performing repertory, and sifting through the puzzle of authorship."

On a related note, Christine Blanken at the coming American Bach Society biannual conference will continue her Bach UK Network exploration of Christoph Brinkmann's authorship of eight libretti in Cantata Service Cycle 3, as well as the SJP 1725 additions and whether he is the author of the three additional arias, BWV 245a-c that I discussed last week, as well as the question, "with whom would he have discussed Bach "music-theological concepts like a passion?"

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 28, 2016):
[Regarding Fugitive Notes]
I have explored the dramatic possibilities in the SJP through conducting a semi-staged performance about 7 or 8 years ago. We used quite simple means--lighting, some movement to underscore emotional elements, having the audience sing the chorales with us (in English)--and it was quite effective, judging from audience reaction. Purists perhaps would have disliked it, but my purpose was not to be a purist, but to communicate with a 20th/21st century audience who are not necessarily familiar with the Passions, or even the liturgical year. And it did communicate.

Ed Myskowsky wrote (March 31, 2016):
[To William Hoffman, regarding St. John Passion: Open Discussion, Thematic Notes]
Thanks to Will Hoffman for suggesting this discussion, sorry I did not catch up with it sooner.

My introduction to the St. John Passion was the Craig Smith/Emmanuel Music live performance and subsequent recording from a bit less than twenty years ago (1998, I believe), which appears to be still available.. I am not able to be objective about the quality of the recording because the performers have a close personal connection to the Boston music scene, and in particular to the long and ongoing tradition of weekly Bach cantata performances at Emmanuel Church. If you would enjoy sampling that kind of tradition via recording, it is recommended. If you ever happen to be in Boston on a Sunday morning, the live experience is not to be missed.

William Hoffman wrote (March 31, 2016):
[To Ed Myskowski] Amen. I'll do that on my next trip to Boston.

Warren Prestidge wrote (March 31, 2016):
[To William Hoffman, regarding St. John Passion: Open Discussion, Thematic Notes]
My first taste of the St John Passion was a recording of the great aria "Es ist vollbracht" sung by Kathleen Ferrier (back in the 1950's). A marvelous voice and the "Der Held aus Juda' section was electrifying.

I got to know the whole work via the recording conducted by Karl Foster, with the Berlin Symphony Orchesta, the Choir of St Hedwig's Cathedral, and the incomparable Fischer-Dieskau as Christ (STZ.274). What struck me most was the intense drama of the trial scenes, with those demonic crowd choruses, but especially the passage leading up to the scourging, wonderfully sustained by Evangelist Fritz Wunderlich. Most amazing of all, the unexpected stillness and beauty of the arioso "Betrachte, meine Seel'", with lute: such a sublime invention.

Thanks very much for the splendid detailed analyses of cantata after cantata in recent posts.

As for Klemperer's St Matthew Passion, I cut my teeth on that and, for me, despite all its anachronisms in performance style, etc., it is still the gold standard in doing something like full justice to this work. But I did hear a great live performance here in Auckland a couple of years ago!


BCW: Johannes-Passion BWV 245 - Revised & updated Discography

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 16, 2017):
The discography pages of J.S. Bach's Johannes-Passion BWV 245 on the BCW have been revised & updated. The discography is arranged chronologically by recording date. Currently there are 291 different recordings of the complete (or near complete) work, including 6 sung in English and one in French, and the number is continuing to grow rapidly. In the previous version of this discography from 2013 there were 245 recordings and in 2012 - 219. All the releases of each recording are presented as one entry.

Both commercial and non-commercial recordings are presented. In order to make this discography as comprehensive as possible, I have compiled info from every possible source I could find, including web recording databases, web-stores, YouTube, SoundCloud, IMSLP, other Johannes-Passion discographies, and more.

The discography is split into 9 pages, a page per a decade + a page for the English sung versions.
All the Discography pages, Discussions pages and other material are linked from the main page of Johannes-Passion BWV 245 on the BCW:
The discography pages are inter-linked. You can start, for example, in the most recent page (2010-2019):
and go backward to the page of previous decade (2000-2009).
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

With 291 recordings, the Johannes-Passion is currently the most recorded vocal work of J.S. Bach, surpassing even the popular Mass in B minor.
If you have any correction, addition or completion of missing details, please inform me.



Johannes-Passion BWV 245: Details
Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Complete Recordings sung in English | Recordings of Individual Movements
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Systematic Discussions: Part 1: Mvts. 1-7 | Part 2: Mvts. 6-14 | Part 3: Mvts. 15-20 | Part 4: Mvts. 21-26 | Part 5: Mvts. 27-32 | Part 6: Mvts. 36-40 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings: BWV 245 - F. Brüggen | BWV 245 - S. Cleobury | BWV 245 - P. Dombrecht | BWV 245 - D, Fasolis | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 245 - N. Harnoncourt-H. Gillesberger | BWV 245 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 245 - E. Higginbottom | BWV 245 - E. Jochum | BWV 245 - E. Kleiber | BWV 245 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 245 - H. Max | BWV 245 - P. McCreesh | BWV 245 - H. Münch | BWV 245 - P. Neumann | BWV 245 - A. Parrott | BWV 245 - P. Pickett | BWV 245 - K. Richter | BWV 245 - H. Rilling | BWV 245 - P. Schreier | BWV 245 - R. Shaw | BWV 245 - K. Slowik | BWV 245 - M. Suzuki | BWV 245 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles: Saint John Passion, BWV 245 [T.N. Towe] | The Passion of Saint John, BWV 245 [M. Steinberg] | St. John Passion [A. Wong & N. Proctor] | The St. John Passion on stage [U. Golomb] | Literary Origins of Bach’s St. John Passion: 1704-1717 [W. Hoffman] | Bach’s Passion Pursuit [W. Hoffman]

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


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Last update: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 01:23