Homepage List Listening to Bach's St Matthew Passion and St John Passion on Easter Sunday

37. Listening to Bach's St Matthew Passion and St John Passion on Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday, sitting right before the speakers at home with a decent and solemn mind, I had been listening to, each thoroughly through the whole work from the very first to the very last musical note, Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 and St. John Passion BWV 245, the two greatest masterpieces of passion music ever written in music history. Bach (1685-1750), a true musical genius of all times, tried his uppermost artistic capacity to explore every possibility of the human voice and the sounds of the musical instruments into their peak harmony and perfection.

Both works contain recitatives, arias for soloists, choruses for choirs and chorales for the choirs and the congregation as well. The shorter St. John Passion, lasting about 1 hour and 46 minutes, consists of two parts with Part One containing the Sections of 1.Betrayal and Arrest, and 2.Denial, and Part Two containing the Sections of 1.Interrogation and Scourging, 2.Condemnation and Crucifixion, 3.The Death of Jesus, and 4.Burial. The longer St. Matthew Passion, lasting about 3 hours and 16 minutes, probably the longest piece of all Bach's works, consists of two parts as well, with Part One containing the Sections of 1.Anointing in Bethany, 2.Judas's Betrayal, 3.The Last Supper, 4.Jesus's Despair on the Mount of Olives, 5.Prayer on the Mount of Olives, and 6.Arrest of Jesus, and Part Two containing the Sections of 1.Jesus's Interrogation by the High Priests, 2.Peter's Denial, 3.Judas in the Temple, 4.Jesus before Pilate, 5.Scourging of Jesus, 6.Simon of Cyrene, 7.Crucifixion, 8.Descent from the Cross, and 9.Burial.

Annoyance can be dissipated, disturbance of mind can be smoothed, painful feelings, no matter physical or mental, can be soothed, and depression can be lessened as one is listening to Bach's music in which the qualities of elegance, delicacy, simplicity in spirit and sophistication in texture can never be mistaken in one place or the other. What activity else in Easter can be better than bathing oneself, Christian or not, completely into the sacred atmosphere of Bach's wonderful passion music?

(Written on April 29, 2011)