Posts

A Closer Look – John Butt on Bach’s Matthew Passion

Events

Bach Mass in B Minor

“If music has the power to direct our entire existence towards nobleness, this music is great. Bach has achieved this.” Is there a piece in the entire Western musical canon that so fully embodies this sentiment? The B Minor Mass began its life as a job application, but was later assembled towards the end of Bach’s life as a statement of faith: in God, of course, but just as much in music: to offer healing, unity and promise. With its exhaustive compendium of musical styles (and his twin trademarks of mathematical genius and dancing feet) and complete mastery of composition, both musical and architectural, it speaks for the whole world. In directing us towards nobleness, Bach shows us – people of all faiths and of none – the oneness of humankind with the universe, and the responsibility of human life to do good and to seek beauty.

Bach Mass in B Minor

“If music has the power to direct our entire existence towards nobleness, this music is great. Bach has achieved this.” Is there a piece in the entire Western musical canon that so fully embodies this sentiment? The B Minor Mass began its life as a job application, but was later assembled towards the end of Bach’s life as a statement of faith: in God, of course, but just as much in music: to offer healing, unity and promise. With its exhaustive compendium of musical styles (and his twin trademarks of mathematical genius and dancing feet) and complete mastery of composition, both musical and architectural, it speaks for the whole world. In directing us towards nobleness, Bach shows us – people of all faiths and of none – the oneness of humankind with the universe, and the responsibility of human life to do good and to seek beauty.

Bach’s Matthew Passion – Wigmore Hall Residency

Known even in Bach’s time as his ‘great’ Passion, the Matthew Passion lays out the narrative of Christ’s suffering and death in epic proportions: double chorus, double orchestra, and in music of staggering beauty and profundity. It unfolds with intractable dramatic momentum, as well as presenting a succession of tableaux that invite the listener to contemplate the many resonances of this journey. However, the work also suggests a more fundamental question: how, even in the depths of despair and subjected to grave injustice, humanity is able – through faith and through love – to find hope, consolation and joy.

Bach’s Matthew Passion

Known even in Bach’s time as his ‘great’ Passion, the Matthew Passion lays out the narrative of Christ’s suffering and death in epic proportions: double chorus, double orchestra, and in music of staggering beauty and profundity. It unfolds with intractable dramatic momentum, as well as presenting a succession of tableaux that invite the listener to contemplate the many resonances of this journey. However, the work also suggests a more fundamental question: how, even in the depths of despair and subjected to grave injustice, humanity is able – through faith and through love – to find hope, consolation and joy.

Bach Christmas Oratorio – Wigmore Hall Residency

“Shout and exult!” Bach did not conceive the Christmas Oratorio as a work to be heard in a single performance. It was a collection of 6 cantatas – one for each feast day between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – displaying the composer’s unerring talent for harvesting and revivifying his own material. The piece suggests to the listener a spiritual journey from the Nativity to the Epiphany, and is full of wondrously memorable colour – from the trumpets and timpani depicting the infant king to the rustic lyricism of the flutes and oboes. It also shows Bach at his most utterly joyful, presenting the story of Christmas with music of luminous warmth and festive exuberance.

Bach Christmas Oratorio

“Shout and exult!” Bach did not conceive the Christmas Oratorio as a work to be heard in a single performance. It was a collection of 6 cantatas – one for each feast day between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – displaying the composer’s unerring talent for harvesting and revivifying his own material. The piece suggests to the listener a spiritual journey from the Nativity to the Epiphany, and is full of wondrously memorable colour – from the trumpets and timpani depicting the infant king to the rustic lyricism of the flutes and oboes. It also shows Bach at his most utterly joyful, presenting the story of Christmas with music of luminous warmth and festive exuberance.

Bach Masses

JS Bach is one of a very small collection of composers who seem incapable of writing second-rate music. His Lutheran Masses are a perfect illustration of this: overshadowed by his monumental B Minor Mass, they nevertheless contain what might conceivably be his favourite music from the cantatas, lovingly revived in succinct works of vibrant colour and indefatigable inspiration. Loved by all who know them, they give the lie to the idea that the devil gets all the best tunes. The menu is completed with the irrepressible dance rhythms and ravishing harmonies from his Orchestra Suite in C major.

Bach Masses

JS Bach is one of a very small collection of composers who seem incapable of writing second-rate music. His Lutheran Masses are a perfect illustration of this: overshadowed by his monumental B Minor Mass, they nevertheless contain what might conceivably be his favourite music from the cantatas, lovingly revived in succinct works of vibrant colour and indefatigable inspiration. Loved by all who know them, they give the lie to the idea that the devil gets all the best tunes. The menu is completed with the irrepressible dance rhythms and ravishing harmonies from his Orchestra Suite in C major.

Portfolio Items