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Bach’s “Saint Matthew Passion”

Plough Music Series

Colin Fields

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  • Carolee A Uits

    I am sitting in a room in Kagera Region, Tanzania, no church nearby - and still in touch with the global church who laments the need for this Day and the pangs of Jesus for us. And yet I Worship and Praise for I am not alone in my circumstance - but with the whole church on earth, am awaiting his resurrection - the raising of the Lamb Who is slain that we might ever live - wherever we are and in whatever circumstance.

Today on Good Friday we remember the suffering and death of Jesus; there is no more fitting music for this day than Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion. Here is the mighty opening chorus where the daughters of Jerusalem lament; over their voices a choir of “faithful souls” sings in praise of the Lamb of God.

In this powerful recording, Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and Concentus Musicus in the Jesuit Church on Vienna’s Ignaz-Seipel-Plaz. The chorale is sung by members of the Vienna Boys’s Choir.

Bach’s beautiful autograph score is shown on the video. Musicologist David Gordon noted that, “an indication of the special regard he held for this work is that Bach went to considerable trouble in his old age to repair the large manuscript score of the St. Matthew Passion. This presentation-quality copy, still in existence today, is unique among Bach manuscripts: he designed it beautifully, painstakingly bound and re-sewed it by hand, and carefully highlighted the biblical words in red ink.”

Soli deo Gloria.

Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen,
Sehet! – Wen? – den Bräutigam!
Seht ihn! – Wie? – als wie ein Lamm.
Sehet! – Was? – seht die Geduld,
Seht! – Wohin? – auf unsre Schuld.

Sehet ihn aus Lieb und Huld
Holz zum Kreuze selber tragen.

O Lamm Gottes unschuldig,
Am Stamm des Kreuzes geschlachtet,
Allzeit erfunden geduldig,
Wiewohl du warest verachtet.
All Sünd hast du getragen,
Sonst müßten wir verzagen.
Erbarm dich unser, o Jesu.

Come, ye daughters, share my anguish.
See him! – Whom? – the Bridegroom!
See Him! – How? – A spotless Lamb.
See it! – What? – His innocence,
Look! – Look where? – At our offense.

Look on him, for love intense
On the cross content to languish.

O Lamb of God most holy!
Who on the cross didst suffer,
And patient still and lowly,
Thyself to scorn didst offer;
Our sins by Thee were taken,
Or hope had us forsaken:
Have mercy on us, Jesus.

MatthiasGrunewalddetail Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece (detail)
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