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Monday, 21 March 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 81 - Ah, Bach!

Bit of a late start of the day for me so apologies if anyone was looking for today's installment earlier this morning.

Normally I prepare these things the night before but as I was overcome with tiredness last night I didn't get anything done, so having spent a short while exploring what I might do today I noticed that it was the birthdate of one Johann Sebastian Bach. Cue memories of Radar trying to get some inspiration and tips for a date from Hawkeye on M.A.S.H.:


Okay, now we have that out of the way down to the serious matter of looking at Mr Bach and a particular piece of music he wrote a long, long time ago. I've said more than a few times on this blog that I am not really an expert when it comes to what is deemed Classical Music but there are a few pieces by various composers that I every now and again listen to. Bach is among that number and seeing as it is Easter Week I thought a little glance at his masterful work St John Passion would be a good place to spotlight.
 
There's so much music these days that is what I deem as disposable. It's here today and forgotten tomorrow. Music that is of any real worth always stands the test of time and so artists from the 1950's like Elvis, Buddy Holly etc or the 1960's like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks etc is still so fondly remembered by many and still gets an airing on Radio, TV etc. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach has certainly lasted the course, this despite not having been laid down on Vinyl or any other recording device for more than two hundred years after it was written!

St. John Passion was written sometime in the first year of Bach's time in Leipzig in 1723-1724. In Leipzig he was responsible for providing music that would be used at four churches in the city (the Thomaskirche (where he was based), the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), and to a lesser extent the Neue Kirche (New Church) and the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church).

The piece was first performed on Good Friday 7th April 1724 not long after Bach's 39th birthday. It was originally going to be performed at the Thomaskirche but the music council in the city moved it to the Nicolaikirche. It is based around the 18th and 19th chapters of the Gospel of John (taken from the Luther Bible). Though he did use some artistic license by adding two sections that actually appeared in Matthew's Gospel (a new work called St Matthew Passion was unvieled in 1727 and is the only other Passion piece of Bach's that survives) It is a work in two parts, the first spotlighting Kidron Valley where Jesus is betrayed by Judas and then the scene before Caiaphas and the denial of Christ by Peter. In the second part there are three scenes, firstly Jesus before Pontius Pilate, then Golgotha for the crucifixion and thirdly the burial site. It's a very powerful piece with the Evangelist John telling the story and also there's a soloist part for one depicting the words of Christ and also for Pilate.
 
The 1724 version is the most famous version of the piece but like some musicians today Bach did at various points in time make some changes (1725, sometime in the 1730's, and in 1749 he more or less reverted back to the original of 1724).

I know it's very different from what I normally post on here but it's a good thing to step aside from time to time and reflect upon something that clearly said to be a real piece of classic music!

(Statue of J.S. Bach at St Thomas Church in Leipzig)

St. John Passion - J.S. Bach

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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