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Vaughan Williams on Music$
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David Manning

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195182392

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182392.001.0001

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Bach, St Matthew Passion

Bach, St Matthew Passion

(p.405) Chapter 96 Bach, St Matthew Passion
Vaughan Williams on Music

David Manning

Oxford University Press

It may seem to some a hopeless task to present Johann Sebastian Bach's “St Matthew Passion” in a London concert room, because if one listens to it as a concert piece one shall entirely mistake its purpose. The essence of the “Passion” form is the recital of the Gospel story as a church service interspersed with reflective solos and choruses and the well-known choral melodies of the Lutheran church, and it is in this spirit that it must be performed and listened to. However, in transferring a work from the Thomaskirche in 1729 to a London concert room in 1923, certain adaptations and compromises are inevitable. To start with, the only possible language in which the Gospel history can be recited to an English audience is that of the “Authorized Version” of 1611; anything else would be an insult both to Bach and to the Bible.

Keywords:   Johann Sebastian Bach, St Matthew Passion, recital, Gospel story, choral melodies, Lutheran church, Thomaskirche, London, concert, Bible

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