Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for St Matthew Passion

Music History Monday: St. Matthew Passion

We mark the first performance on April 11, 1727 – on what was Good Friday 295 years ago today – of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the St. Thomas Church (or Thomaskirche) in the Saxon city of Leipzig. The Passion was performed three more times in Bach’s lifetime, all under his direction in Leipzig: on April 15, 1729; March 30, 1736; and on March 23, 1742. Bach revised his St Matthew Passion between 1743 and 1746, and it is this revised version that we will hear in performances and recordings today. Our game plan for this post will be, one, to discuss what a “Passion” is and what the “gospels” are; two, to observe the structure and scope and make some blanket observations about the artistic quality of Bach’s St Matthew Passion; three, to discuss “the masterpiece syndrome” and some of the good and bad things that phrase implies; four, to once again venture into the unmapped minefield that is contemporary identity politics and attempt to create a meaningful context for the St Matthew Passion; and finally, five, to speculate on how the parishioners and church officials who, having filed in and taken their seats at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche […]

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