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The Price of AssimilationFelix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition$
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Jeffrey S. Sposato

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195149746

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149746.001.0001

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The St. Matthew Passion Revival

The St. Matthew Passion Revival

(p.38) 2 The St. Matthew Passion Revival
The Price of Assimilation

Jeffrey S. Sposato

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Felix Mendelssohn's 1829 revival of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion (Matthaus-Passion). Musicologist Michael Marissen has argued that in preparing for the revival, Mendelssohn cut Bach's work to remove anti-Semitic references. It is shown instead that Mendelssohn's cuts were intended to make the work more accessible to a 19th-century audience that was largely unfamiliar with Bach's works. Mendelssohn's cuts were also similar to those of other Christian conductors who performed the work later, suggesting that he did not make his changes out of any lingering affinity for Judaism, or to lessen the work's anti-Semitism. Mendelssohn, in fact, was a close disciple of prominent Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, who viewed Judaism as an outdated religion.

Keywords:   Johann Sebastian Bach, Matthaus-Passion, Michael Marissen, anti-Semitism, Friedrich Schleiermacher

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