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

Other Vocal Works BWV 225-249

General Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Blacklisting Bach's Passions?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 2, 2004):
Ban Bach’s Passions Henceforth from All Concert Halls?

This was one of the options seriously discussed on a program aired over WFMT FM yesterday afternoon to initiate further discussions arising in the aftermath of Mel Gibson’s film on the ‘Passion of the Christ,’ a film which has provoked strong criticisms because of its alleged anti-Semitic portrayal of the events described in the Gospel according to St. John (BWV 245). The almost hour-long program entitled “Sing to the Glory of God: The Legacy of Anti-Judaism in Christian Choral Music” emanated from Goucher College (Baltimore, Maryland) and featured a discussion primarily between Tom Hall (musician/(conductor?) also from Baltimore, Peter Faye ({spelling?} with a media connection), Riley Lewis (Washington Consort etc.), Michael Marissen (Swarthmore College), and Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson (a theologian.)

The title of the program notwithstanding, the discussion and musical illustrations (in the form of snippets to tie the loose ends of the discussion together) centered entirely upon the two major Passions of J. S. Bach who became the main focus of this effort which arose out of a concern for PC (political correctness), a fact which was even suggested by one of the participants in this discussion as the raison d’être of this production.

Very troubling indeed was the incident related about a choir director (his name and the choir involved were not directly mentioned but the situation may have occurred in the Baltimore area) who experienced during rehearsals of the SJP (BWV 245) such strong opposing factions and profound disagreement within the choir regarding the alleged anti-Semitic content of the text that he refused ever again to even consider giving another performance of a Bach Passion.

The primary offenses to the sensibility of those of Jewish descent or of the Jewish religion are 1) the ‘blood curse’ (Matt 27:25) and 2) deicide – the blame for the murder of a god. As Lewis put it: “This [the Passions, particularly the SJP (BWV 245)] is beautiful music with toxic words. The incendiary text made this a work that this conductor [referred to above] could no longer conduct.”

Some of the discussion centered upon Bach’s ‘willing participation’ in selecting and using this text. The argument goes as follows: Bach did not refute the text; ergo, he is a willing messenger. Bach made no attempt to ameliorate the text to make it more palatable for his listeners. Lewis continues: “Great art is great art, and just because Bach’s art is so great [dramatic, forceful], that is why it is so offensive.” Lewis admits that the use of the German language causes a further barrier as Bach portrays the sections pertaining to the Jews (“die Jüden”) as mob-like, upsetting choruses that express violence and irrationality, while, in contrast, the choruses singing the Christian chorales are hymn-like and relaxed.

Marissen and Hall point out that Bach had little choice over the texts that he used. Marissen stressed that 55% of the SJP (BWV 245) text is not taken directly from the Gospel according to St. John. The larger portion is comprised of interpretative commentaries reflecting the theological notions and attitudes current in Bach’s time.

Michael Marissen’s book “Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion” (BWV 245) [Oxford University Press, 1998] gives a rather balanced treatment of all the issues involved here, pointing out which scholars have probably ‘gone off the deep end’ in attempting to prove Bach’s anti-Semitic stance. Did Bach have in his library of theological texts a book by Johannes Müller “Judaismus oder Jüdenthum – Das ist: Ausführlicher Bericht Von des Jüdischen Volcks Unglauben, Blindheit und Verstockung” {“Judaism or Semitism – Specifically: A Detailed Report on the Unbelieving Nature, Blindness and Stubbornness of the Jewish People”} [Hamburg, 1644]? Yes. Did Luther himself express some anti-Semitic views? Yes. In his book, Marissen, more directly clarifies what Dr. Johnson hints at in the discussion: “Luther’s extremely ugly pronouncements are probably wrongly construed as ‘racial’ theories….This can easily thwart consideration of our reception of the post-Reformation Lutheranism of Bach’s music….Lutheran theology’s anti-Judaism did not incorporate the long-sanctioned condemnation of the Jews as the “Christ killers.” While Luther certainly thought Jews were guilty in Jesus’ crucifixion, neither he nor his followers believed that Jews alone, or even primarily, were accountable….The traditional Christ-killer sentiments are certainly found readily in dictionaries and secular songs of Bach’s day. There is nothing of that sort, however, in the standard Lutheran theology read by Bach as a young student and which was still used in the St. Thomas School of Leipzig during his tenure there.” [pp. 24-26] In the radio discussion, however, Marissen wonders “if we aren’t loading too much onto the music itself.”

On the other hand, Lewis, thinking as a potential concert-goer who wishes to hear these great works of art, might say “Why should I pay $50 to hear a chorus continually repeat ‘You’re a Christ-killer’ at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise?”

Under these conditions, what should be done about performances of Bach’s Passions?

Here are some of the recommendations made by the participants:

1) Never perform these compositions (Richard Taruskin is quoted here as the source)

2) Change the words (‘die Jüden’ becomes ‘das Volk’, etc.) (bowdlerize the text)

3) Cut out certain sections (censorship)

4) Suggest to those who might have a problem with the performance not to come or refund the cost of the ticket(s).

5) Curtail/modify/eliminate all public performances but not new (CD/DVD) recordings as “recordings are not as potent” as “live, public performances.”

6) Provide educational opportunities (symposia, etc.) for the listeners/concert-goers before and discussions after the public performances to bring about understanding on the part of both opposing sides. "These performances should become scenarios for understanding our own beliefs, but also to consider intolerance and how it is propagated."

7) Supply copious program notes which also pay attention to these issues. These should be provided in any case for any public performance.

[I have tried to report the above as objectively as possible and have resorted to quoting Marissen in the instance where the theologian Johnson only spoke very briefly and could only provide rather incomplete hints regarding the points which Marissen covered more completely in his book.

IMHO all the above considerations and recommendations do not apply to recordings or to performances in a church setting where Bach’s Passions should be performed as authentically as possible. The problems discussed above occur primarily when/where these Passions are performed in a non-church setting, or one which departs from the original score (a dance or dramatically-acted-out version) where the original concept of the Passions has been altered.]

Here is a recent article from a newspaper which underlines the turmoil described above:

>>Kenneth LaFave
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 29, 2004 12:00 AM
Two works called Passion will be performed in the Valley before Easter Sunday. Neither is by Mel Gibson. Neither is anti-Semitic.

"Bach doesn't blame the Jews for Christ's crucifixion," says Robert Moody, associate conductor of the Phoenix Symphony. "He blames all of us."

Moody has been preparing the Phoenix Symphony Chorus for the intricacies of Bach's weaving of text and music in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), a musicacommemoration of the days leading up to the crucifixion of Christ, set for performance Thursday and Friday. Among the many hundreds of words set by Bach in the 68 movements that make up one of the most important compositions in Western musical history, Moody has been able to find the German word for "Jew" only once:

"It comes when Pilate has the words 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews' placed over the head of Jesus on the cross."

The immediate cause of Christ's death, according to the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), then, originates not among "the Jews," but precisely where the Nicene Creed of the Roman Catholic Church places it: Pontius Pilate and the Roman Empire.

Blame is another matter.

"It's clear at many points in Bach's score that no specific group of humans - Jews, Romans, or anybody else - are guilty. From Bach's perspective, we are all responsible for crucifying Jesus because of our sins. In one movement, Jesus tells the disciples that one among them will betray him. They all sing, over and over again, 'Is it I?' Then, the next movement is a chorale called 'It Is I Who Should Pay the Price.' In other words, it's all of us."

Musical settings of the Passion have been a staple of Christian liturgy since the fourth century in the Eastern Church and the fifth century in the West. Early Passions were simply chanted. Later Passions were set to music for voices and instruments by many a workaday church musician and a handful of geniuses - of which Bach is the supreme example.

The form moved out of church and into the concert hall when Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) was discovered by Felix Mendelssohn in the 1820s and performed for the first time as something other than liturgy. Two contrasting Passions of contemporary vintage, intended for concert rather than worship, are Arvo Part's Passio and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar

Passions always end with the death of Jesus and never include the Resurrection, which belongs strictly to Easter, and not to the Lenten, or fasting, mode of the days before Easter.<<

Roy Johansen wrote (March 2, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] This is a very good post, Thomas. Thank you!

Doesn't this sound eerily like Taliban-ruled Afghanistan's resolve to destroy their 1500-year-old Buddha statues? Or is it all different because we Jews and Christians are, harrupmh, civilized people? --Oh, and let's pretend Shakespeare didn't write "The Rape of Lucrece"; it's such an icky subject.

If we just change history sufficiently, we will never risk repeating it.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 2, 2004):
[To Roy Johansen] The notion that great art somehow transcends mere humans simply doesn't work anymore. Whether Christians or devotees of the Western European canon like it or not, the Gospel Passion narratives were the fons et origo of anti-semitism and led us to Auschwitz. Nazi musicians exalted Bach precisely because he had been detached from his liturgical context and put to work in the service of German cultural racism; Mendelssohn was suppressed.

What does this mean for modern performers? Does this mean that we can't sing the 16th c. motets of Guerrero because he wrote exquisite polyphony to cover the screams of the victims of the Inquisition? Or that Mozart's "Magic Flute" must be banned because of its appalling racism?

No, but we must abandon the "art for art's sake" attitude which is still dominant among professional musicians and modern concert audiences. We must return these works to their historical and cultural context. That means that we can't perform incomporable poetry the "The Merchant of Venice" without articulating and acknowledging the anti-Semitic society from which it emerged (remember, England was the first country to be "Judenfrei"). Nor can we allow the religiosity of Wagner's "Parsifal" to obscure its racialist ideology.

If we are to perform Bach, we have to look at the place of the Passion narratives in the context of Christian scriptural tradition (Raymond Brown's commentary "The Death of the Messiah" gives us the best scholarship) and in the historical tradition of Luther's anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. We also have to look at Bach's own complex attitude to the Passion narratives. The St. John (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passions (BWV 244) are VERY different in their use of the verse interpolations of arias and chorales. The latter in particular has a Pietistic universalism.

There is a great deal of work to be done.

Donald Satz wrote (March 2, 2004):
[To Douglas Cowling] I disagree with Douglas that "we must abandon the art for art's sake attitude". On the contrary, I feel it is crucial to support this attitude from those who want to place art under society's thumb. Art flourishes most when it is independent from the values of a society and its public sector.

It might be wise to keep in mind that the "Control the Passions" folks are just a small segment of society intent on controlling art to further its goals. Take a look at these folks - are they the type of people that you want calling the artistic shots? Further, have we learned nothing through the Communist Regime experience of insisting that art support the aims of the State?

The recent hoopla about Janet Jackson's exposed right breast and Mel Gibson's movie will wither away with time. Don't press the panic button and try to cut the losses - hold firm to your principles.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 2, 2004):
< Ban Bach’s Passions Henceforth from All Concert Halls?
(...)
This was one of the options seriously discussed on a program aired over WFMT FM yesterday afternoon to initiate further discussions arising in the aftermath of Mel Gibson’s film on the ‘Passion of the Christ’ a film which has provoked strong criticisms because of its alleged anti-Semitic portrayal of the events described in the Gospel according to St. John.
(...)
Here are some of the recommendations made by the participants:
1) Never perform these compositions (Richard Taruskin is quoted here as the source) >
If that's what they said, it's quite an extreme interpretation of Taruskin's essay "Text and Act" (originally a 1994 article in New York Times) available in the book of the same name. Taruskin's point (as I see it) was about the questionable trend in modern society of taking works of art as immutable sacred texts never to be interpreted or changed. The problem, as he puts it, is such a worship of the score, and what such a literalistic practice says about society as a whole in the way it treats its works of art, holding them (as he points out elsewhere) even above the composer. The whole book, as an anthology of Taruskin's essays, deals with that issue of taking written materials above people where works of musical art are concerned. The St John Passion (BWV 245) is mentioned only in the last two paragraphs of the "Text and Act" essay, and the SMP (BWV 244) not at all; and he doesn't say here that it's necessary to stop performing them.

Well...anyone interested in seeing what he wrote should go and read the essay, and of course the whole book. It just seems to me, if someone is using Taruskin as an advocate to stop performing the Bach passions, it's a gross misrepresentation of Taruskin's work.

Brad Lehman
(...living in a state where some people are now upset about the flag. As the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl brought to the center of some attention, the flag of Virginia depicts a woman with one uncovered breast.)

Bob Henderson wrote (March 2, 2004):
In agreement with Don, I believe that us "art for art's sake "folks would be the first to loudly and actively challange anti-semitism in our communirties. And I think that Doug would be with us. It's the fundamentalist mentality that doesn't give a hoot about the art that would censor it for others. And I believe that the fundamentalist set leads to discrimination, for their "am right" is no more important to them than their "you are wrong".

 

Bach’s Passions

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 5, 2004):
I would like to ask if anyone enjoys Bach's Passions? I sing in a choir and recently performed St. John Passion (BWV 245). Out of the four passions that Bach wrote, this work is my personal favourite.

Jasper Riedel wrote (April 5, 2004):
Nicky Thompson wrote:
< I would like to ask if anyone enjoys Bach's Passions? >
Yep - I enjoy them very much.

How do you like "Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder", which is the final part of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244)?

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 5, 2004):
[To Jasper Riedel] Sorry my German isn't good - do you mean "Tears of Grief" that is called in some modern editions? If yes, I love it! Bach, like Mozart, knew how to write for voices without over powering it. The final lament holds something very special which I can't quite determine, it has made my eyes water on several occassions. The opening movement of St. Matthew (BWV 244) is also very good. Do you also know the little choir entry towards the end "He was the Son of God" it's only c.9 bars/measures long, but so beautiful. I know the St. Matthew (BWV 244) and St. John Passions (BWV 245) very well, have yet to had the pleasure of listening to St. Luke (BWV 246) and St. Mark (BWV 247).

Jasper Riedel wrote (April 6, 2004):
Nicky Thompson wrote:
< Sorry my German isn't good - do you mean "Tears of Grief" that is called in some modern editions? If yes, I love it! >
Perhaps - this one? http://www.moz.ac.at/collegium/m/matthaeus2000/wirsetzenuns.mp3

As you mentioned that you are singing yourself, you probably should like the above site that offers several examples of choir music: http://www.moz.ac.at/collegium/?m=hoerproben

I would like to point you especially to the h-minor mass, too, this is, the "h-moll Messe" (BWV 232) in our context.

Ioannis Galidakis wrote (April 6, 2004):
Jasper Riedel wrote:
< How do you like "Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder", which is the final part of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244)? >
Whoa! This in my opinion is probably the epitome of all human creation, along with The Art of Fugue. When I listen to the last SMP section, I break down in tears.

I must have listened to the entire SMP (BWV 244) CD's at least 1,000 times by now.

Fredrik Sandstrom wrote (April 6, 2004):
Nicky Thompson writes:
< I know the St. Matthew (BWV 244) and St. John Passions (BWV 245) very well, have yet to had the pleasure of listening to St. Luke (BWV 246) and St. Mark (BWV 247). >
You will probably never have the pleasure of listening to the St Mark passion (BWV 247) because the music is lost, only the libretto has survived.

And the St Luke passion catalogued as BWV 246 is not written by Bach according to modern scholarship, and is indeed quite different from what Bach wrote. It is a nice work well worth listening to nonetheless.

So, the St Matthew (BWV 244) and the St John passions (BWV 245) are unfortunately the only passion settings by Bach that have come down to us.

Quamra wrote (April 6, 2004):
Nicky Thompson wrote:
< I would like to ask if anyone enjoys Bach's Passions? I sing in a choir and recently performed St. John Passion (BWV 245). Out of the four passions that Bach wrote, this work is my personal favourite. >
I sing in a choir too and tomorrow evening we will perform St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and I'm looking forward to it very much. Personally I prefer St. Matthew (BWV 244) above St. John Passion (BWV 245), but of course I love them both. Especially the choir at the end of the first part, "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross" always makes me cry, because I did something in the past which I now regret very much and of which I still feel the consequences. And of course the finishing choir is SO wonderful, and also the little choir that comes before it, "Mein Jesu, gute Nacht". I have the pleasure to be in choir 2, so I have to sing that too. Of the arias I prefer "Erbarme Dich" and "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein". I hope you can understand which pieces I mean, because I only know the names in German.

John Briggs wrote (April 6, 2004):
[To Fredrik Sandstrom] There have been at least two recordings of the St Mark Passion (BWV 247). Unfortunately, the most complete version, on Musica Oscura 070970 (1996), is no longer available, I believe. But the less complete version on ASV Gaudeamus CD GAX 237 (1999) should still be available.

John Manuel wrote (April 6, 2004):
[To Ioannis Galidakis] Even card-carrying heathens like me.

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 6 2004):
Fredrik Sandstrom wrote:
< You will probably never have the pleasure of listening to the St Mark passion (BWV 247) because the music is lost, only the libretto has survived. >
I do have a recording of it, just haven't had time to get around listening to it!

< And the St Luke passion catalogued as BWV 246 is not written by Bach according to modern scholarship, and is indeed quite different from what Bach wrote. It is a nice work well worth listening to nonetheless. >
Is there any hint of indication as to who might have wrote it? I'm only speculating but the passion of St. Luke (BWV 246), as we know it today, could be made up from several Bach editions? I know Bach wrote four editions of St. John (BWV 245).

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 6 2004):
John Briggs wrote:
< There have been at least two recordings of the St Mark Passion (BWV 247). Unfortunately, the most complete version, on Musica Oscura 070970 (1996), is no longer available, I believe. But the less complete version on ASV Gaudeamus CD GAX 237 (1999) should still be available. >
I own a box set entailing four double CDs. The edition is "Brilliant Classics 65-73". St. Johannes performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, St. Matthew (BWV 244) performed by The Choir of King's College, St. Luke (BWV 246) performed by Kammeroorchester Collegium Musicum Tiibingen, and St. Mark (BWV 247) performed by The Ring Ensemble of Finland.

I live in the UK & most Kings College stuff is easy to get.

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 6 2004):
Ioannis Galidakis wrote:
< Whoa! This in my opinion is probably the epitome of all human creation, along with The Art of Fugue. >
I would intend to agree with you!

Nicky Thompson wrote (April 6 2004):
[To Qamra] First off, may I wish you good luck for your performance, enjoy!

Yes, I know well "O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross". Lucky you to be in Choir 2, I sing first Soprano and always land singing Choir 1 missing out on singing "Mein Jesu, gute Nacht" (is this the short recit. with soloists? Very beautiful).

Jasper Riedel wrote (April 6, 2004):
Nicky Thompson wrote:
< http://www.moz.ac.at/collegium/?m=hoerproben Good site, thanks! >
Yes, a little off topic, but on that site I like Bach's music best.

John Briggs wrote (April 7,2004):
Fredrik Sandstrom wrote:
John Briggs writes: << Actually, the work of reconstruction had been going on for more than a century. Those "other works by Bach" are either the material Bach re-used to create the Passion, or which he re-used later (sometimes both). And the choruses, arias and chorales are reasonably secure. >>
< I wouldn't be so confident about that. We don't know what music Bach used for the St Mark Passion (SRP), it's only guesswork, based on the observation that it appears from the text that the SRP is largely a parody work (like the Christmas Oratorio). But we don't know even that for sure, it is possible that the SRP was an original work just like SJP and SMP. >
I suppose we don't know anything for certain, but "guesswork" is hardly an appropriate term - and if you think that it is possible that the St Mark Passion was an original work, you had better argue with Wilhelm Rust, Friedrich Smend and Alfred Dürr.

<< The big stumbling block was the recitatives and the turba choruses. Which are hardly the most important musically, but vital to any reconstruction. >>
< The SRP doesn't contain many arias, so the recitiatives and turbae make up a very large portion of the work - I'd consider them important. >
I said musically important. There are two large-scale choruses, six arias and sixteen chorales. We can be reasonably certain about the chorales, the choruses and four of the arias. There is scope for judgement (rather than "guesswork") about the remaining two arias. I did query with Andor that his version had three soprano arias and no bass aria - but he assured me that his daughter being the soprano soloist was pure coincidence!

<< Andor Gomme made the breakthrough with the recitatives >>
< Gomme took the music from Reinhard Keiser's St Mark Passion for the recitatives. That might have been a good idea for his purposes but it is in no way a breakthrough for our knowledge of Bach's SRP. >
Andor's insight was that Bach was very familiar with Keiser's St Mark Passion - Bach seems to have performed it twice, and made his own copy. Bach copied the style, and some of the content, of the recitatives in the St Matthew Passion. It is highly likely, as Andor has argued, that Bach drew heavily on Keiser's recitatives.

<< and Simon Heighes built on his work to complete the recitatives and complete the turba choruses. >>
< He composed the missing recitatives himself (imitating Bach's style, of course). >
And I find what he did very convincing.

< And this is what Koopman did for the entire passion, he did not use Keiser's music at all. In any case, nothing by Bach there. >
The word "hubris" seems designed for just this sort of occasion :-)

 

Drama in Bach passions (was: Woldike SMP)

Continue of discussion from: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Mogens Wöldike

Uri Golomb wrote (June 19, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
"McCreesh missed his vocation as a film director, IMO: I enjoy his SMP for the drama, but he's hardly relating to it as a religious work (likewise Herreweghe's second recording)."
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < What on earth does this mean? >
I think I know what this means: basically, the premise seems to be that drama and religiousness are incompatible, or at very least that religion should restrain drama. I am not at all convinced that Bach shared this view, but it is a very common thread in Bach reception. Its prominence reflects a partial convergence of two contrasting images of Bach, both inherited from the 19th century: the image of Bach as a predominantly religious composer, and the image of Bach the Mathematician, the Abstract Composer.

This convergence reflects a particular reading of the "Fifth Evangelist" image, associating sacrality with severity. But this association is by no means self-evident. In her article on "Erbarme dich", Naomi Cumming tells the following revealing anecdote:

"A Serbian-Orthodox deacon [...] heard the recitative and aria for the first time on CD. His response was disarmingly intense, as emotion seemed to fight with religious expectancy. An involuntary engagement disorientated him, in the expectations of his more ascetical tradition: 'This music cannot be used for liturgy. It disturbs the inner peace!'" (Naomi Cummings, "The Subjectivities of 'Erbarme dich'". Music Analysis, 16/1 (1997), p. 40)

The notion that Bach aimed at the disruption of "inner peace" is represented in several 19th- and early 20th-centuries readings of his music, including religiously-oriented readings like Bitter's, Spitta's and Schweitzer's. Much modern Bach reception, however, is predicated on the assumption that his music is inherently peaceful, and many performances reflect this assumption. However, I don't see anything inappropriate about a performance of the SMP that emphasises the dramatic element.

< How do you know how Paul McCreesh and Philippe Herreweghe feel about the work? >
In my view, you can use a performance to learn something about how a musicians feels about a work. After all, that's part of what performers are trying to convey in their interpretations -- their view of the work and its meaning! Of course, what listeners hear might not always correspond to what the performers were trying to convey.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 19, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote:
"In my view, you can use a performance to learn something about how a musicians feels about a work. After all, that's part of what performers are trying to convey in their interpretations -- their view of the work and its meaning! Of course, what listeners hear might not always correspond to what the performers were trying to convey."
Yes you can, of course, but the last sentence is important. Clearly each and every performance has different things to say about a work but I would suggest that what those things are (as perceived by the individual listener) is of greater significance (at least to him/her) than whether those same things are what the performer intended to say. Boulez's performances are considered by many to be cold and unemotional (which is partly - wrongly in my view - a result of his interpretative stance, which is not to have one); leaving aside the issue of whether or not a particular piece of music should necessarily be warm and emotional, I think it highly unlikely that he doesn't love the music he conducts very profoundly, given that he has spent a lifetime doing it with very great committment. The fact that the listener may not be aware of that love doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

John Pike wrote (June 19, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] I strongly agree about the dramatic element in Bach's work. To take a recent example, I was reading about how Bach included elements from St Matthews Gospel in his SJP to heighten the drama. Apparently, he was forced by the church authorities to remove these extra-Johanian elements for the 1725 version, but re-instated them for the 1749 version because he was unhappy that some of the drama was lacking without them. I hope I've got that right.

Fredrick Sandström wrote (June 20, 2004):
[To John Pike] The element from St Matthew's gospel (Und siehe da, der Vorhang im Tempel zerriss in zwei Stück) is certainly dramatic in the SJP, but I don't think it was removed for the 1725 version. At least it's all there in Herreweghe's recording.

John Pike wrote (June 20, 2004):
[To Fredrick Sandström] Maybe it was for another version that it was removed, ie 1730s. I will look into this.

 

Adding "Saint"

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 26, 2006):
No doubt this has been discussed before. I have longed wondered why whereas Bach's German and Latin titles (I assume they're both authentic) such as Passio secundum Johannem and Johannes-Passion are as they are but the English (which seems to be what is used here) adds "Saint". The same occurs with e.g. Mendelssohn's Paulus, called in English Saint Paul. So this goes beyond Bach and seems to be a language problem.

Thanks,

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 26, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
>>I have longed wondered why whereas Bach's German and Latin titles (I assume they're both authentic) such as Passio secundum Johanand Johannes-Passion are as they are but the English (which seems to be what is used here) adds "Saint". The same occurs with e.g. Mendelssohn's Paulus, called in English Saint Paul. So this goes beyond Bach and seems to be a language problem.<<
Viewed only from the standpoint of Germanic language tradition (converting "Sanctus" into German - English has many similarities with German usage here) and Bach's use of Latin and sometimes German to refer to the SMP and SJP, here are some points worth noting:

1. The usage of "Sankt" or its abbreviations (St. or St) seems restricte primarily to the following types of uses:

a.) it appears primarily in place names or in reference to the inhabitants of such places (places named after saints or after monasteries/churches situated there):
Sankt/St.(or simply St) Moritz,Sankt/St. Gotthard
Sankt/St. Gallen, (die Sankt/St. Galler)

b.) it appears in the names of churches named after saints: Sankt/St. Petri (die Petrikirche, der Thomanerchor, Sankt/St. Katharinens Kirchhof; das Wetterkreuz auf Sankt/St. Thomas Turm)

c.) it appears in special days named after saints:
Sankt/St. Johannistag (usually simply called: Johanni)
Sankt/St. Katharinens Tag, am Sankt/St. Matthäustag

d.) it appears when referring to the saint directly:
Sankt/St. Peters Schlüssel

e.) it appears in curses or in cries for help: beim Sankt Apoll! Sankt Thomas sey’s gedankt!

2. The usage of "Saint" in referring to a certain version of Christ's Passion as set to music:

a. Bach uses the traditional Latin form/name for this type of composition:

Bach’s title: Passio secundum Johannem

Alessandro Scarlatti’s title in Catholic Italy c. 1700: Passio D. N. Jesu Christi secundum Ioannem

M.-A. Charpentier using biblical Texts in Catholic France c. 1700: Le reniement de St. Pierre

L Perosi, composed in Italian “La Passione di Cristo secondo S. Marco (1897)

In German this is traditionally called:

Johannespassion/Johannes-Passion = The Passion according to St. John or St. John’s Passion

just as: Johannesevangelium = The Gospel of St. John or St. John’s Gospel

b. for the SMP, Bach wrote as the title: Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum

This type of Latin title in German Passions can be traced back to at least 1553 (L. Losius in Lüneburg)

Note above the appearance of S. and St. in Italian and French. This may have influenced (but when?) similar usage in English. The spelling of "Saint" looks suspiciously French in origin. Perhaps the OED will shed some light on this.

Raymond Joly wrote (August 27, 2006):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I guess the different languages in this instance just reflect the predominance of one church or another at a crucial time at one place in history, considering that each church and variety thereof had their own views on whether canonizing and honoring saints is pleasant to God or is the first step towards falling back into polytheism and idolatry.

If I am not mistaken, you will find much more Sankt Soandsos as names of a church or a place in Austria (Sankt Florian, Sankt Pölten, etc.) than in more Lutheran parts of Germany. For a French-speaking person (shades of Henri IV and Louis XIV!), Bach's Thomaskirche translates automatically into Saint-Thomas.

But everything changes. I now read of the "Évangile selon saint Marc" being called "Évangile de Marc" by catholic theologians. You will not expect theology to be more stable than the solar system, will you?

Nevertheless, for the time being, "Passion selon Matthieu" and "selon Jean" instead of "selon saint Matthieu" and "selon saint Jean" would sound like an E flat in bar one of the former.

PS. In case you might wonder: "saint Jean" is the saint, "Saint-Jean" is a church, a village, a street, etc.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 27, 2006):
The OED revealed the following early examples:

c1510 More Picus Wks. 9/2 "Which is as trew as the gospell of seint John."

1535 Coverdale Bible, "The gospell of S. Mathew."

Unfortunately my bible program, which contains the precise texts of the earliest versions of Luther's Bible, will not allow me to see the title captions Luther used for the gospels. In a later printed version "based on Luther's Bible (Berlin, 1877) the captions read:
"Evangelium St. Matthai" or "Evangelium St. Johannis", but I do not trust these as being original. Does anyone have access to a facsimile page of Luther's New Testament which shows the actual title Luther used at the top of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John?

Chris Rowson wrote (August 27, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< I guess the different languages in this instance just reflect the predominance of one church or another at a crucial time at one place in history, considering that each church and variety thereof had their own views on whether canonizing and honoring saints is pleasant to God or is the first step towards falling back into polytheism and idolatry. ... >
I think it´s quite simply different customs in different areas. In England, predominantly Anglican/Protestant, we always refer to churches as e.g. St. Helen´s, St. Nicholas´ etc.. The Thomaskirche in Leipzig is referred to as St. Thomas´, or the Church of St. Thomas.

I know the Bach Passions from my youth as an organ student in England as “The St. John Passion” and "The St. Matthew Passion". I think they are more formally referred to as "The Passion according to St. John" etc., but I am unsure because we rarely said or read this.

Rather, we musicians tend to abbreviate further, to “The Matthew Passion” etc., which my German wife still finds extremely comical for reasons which are impenetrable to me when I speak English, but clear when she explains in German.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 28, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Had to turn to google on this one. That can be dangerous to anyone interested in history: all sorts of pages out there dealing with Reformation era scripture of all types. Although I wouldn't usually employ ebay as a source on a theological matter, a page from the 1529 edition of Luther's New Testament is on sale ($400). There's a picture of it and it is clearly entitled "Sant Lucas" and is in German - very legible in fact. They did make good paper back then.

Check it out: http://cgi.ebay.com/1529-Luther-New-Testament-Bible-page-leaf

BTW: I would also not depend upon a 19th century Bible "based on Luther's" as a definitive source. But I'd think it likely that changing the names of the books by either adding or removing "Saint" would not be something done lightly.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 28, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
>>Had to turn to google on this one...a page from the 1529 edition of Luther's New Testament...There's a picture of it and it is clearly entitled "Sant Lucas" and is in German - very legible in fact...<<
Thanks for uncovering this specimen! With my intermittent and slow internet connection, I could not spend much time googling although I did find a complete Luther Bible facsimile (1534, if I am not mistaken) for sale on Amazon.com for under $80, but no text facsimile examples from the NT.

The 1529 sample with "Sant" instead of "Sankt" seems to point to Luther using more regionally peculiar dialect forms here than he did in the complete Bible translation a few years later, at least a cursory glance at this sample page did display many more such forms than I would have expected.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 28, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:text facsimile examples from the NT.
< The 1529 sample with "Sant" instead of "Sankt" seems to point to Luther using more regionally peculiar diaforms here than he did in the complete Bible translation a few years later, >
Why would Luther have used different regional dialect forms in such a short time span? Don't these examples predate standardized spelling?

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 28, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Why would Luther have used different regional dialect forms in such a short time span? Don't these examples predate standardized spelling?<<
You are right. Without actually seeing facsimile pages from both Bibles for comparison, no reasonable answer can be given (my Bible program may proclaim to be Luther's version from 1545, but some standardization may have subsequently been imposed on the original in order to facilitate searches using this version).

I found an example of the oldest title introducing a translation of one of the Gospels into the oldest Germanic language, Gothic. This is from the Gothic Bible - NT portions only (Ravenna, 520 AD). There is no "Saint" in the title which looks like this (there is no way transliterate this satisfactorily):

aíwaggelijo þairk lukan anastodeins

Evangelio durch(through/by) Luke beginning

The beginning of the Gospel by Luke

From this we can see that it was not a Germanic tradition to begin with, but somewhere along the way (was it by the Latin Vulgate?) translations into German and English were influenced by something not given or indicated in the Greek original.

The original Greek NT from which Luther translated does not have any equivalent of "Saint". The title of the above Gospel simply reads "KATA LOUKAN" (according to Luke).

What does the Vulgate translation from the Greek have?
(My Bible program contains the Latin Vulgate version, but will not display the title headings of the Gospels.)

One of the complaints voiced by Luther about numerous translations into German dialects before Luther's own translations was that these texts relied not upon the original sources, Hebrew and Greek, but rather upon the Vulgate and then slavishly adhered to Latin syntax and certain choices of words as well. This is one main reason why these early German translations failed to catch on (I read somewhere that there were about 30 to 40 such translations of the Bible before Luther's.)

Did Luther forget or brush aside his own criticism of other translations when he supplied the word "Saint" which is non-existent as a title in the original Greek NT?

It seems posssible that the early English translations before the King James Version were probably done in the same way, relying upon the Vulgate rather than original sources: OED 1535 "Coverdale Bible, The gospell of S. Mathew."

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 29, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for the response, and additional scholarship. I was mostly trying to quickly point out the care necessary when shopping for purported antiquities, on eBay or elsewhere. I expect Aryeh can add a word or two of caution from the Holy Land.

For some reason, the reply function on my software no longer allows me to add my comments after yours. That is more convenient, as you know. I will figure it out eventually, but in the interim, no need for me to stay silent?

 

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Last update: ýAugust 29, 2006 ý10:44:43