How does the music in the St. Matthew´s Passion by J.S. Bach relate to the lyrics and what effect do they have on each other (lyrics and music)?
February 18, 2008 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How does the music in the St. Matthew´s Passion by J.S. Bach relate to the lyrics and what effect do they have on each other (lyrics and music)?

Existing interpretations and own thoughts are welcome!

Also analyses of the arias in the Passion would be helpful.
posted by freddymetz to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That's a more of a thesis than a short-answer question. If you can find a copy of Bernstein's Joy of Music it has one chapter which is a nice starter course on what you're asking - he talks a lot on precisely the interplay of music and text in this piece.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:10 AM on February 18, 2008

Very honest to put this in the "education" category, rather than the "music" category... But really, as Wolfdog's answered - AskMeFi is not here to write your college papers for you, and the question you've asked is quite an indepth one, despite it's brevity and apparently simplicity...

There's a nice little description of some of the goings-on in the piece here, and the Wikipedia entry is a reasonably starting place too.

Nothing will replace immersive listening and copious note-taking on your part though - feeling the music, understanding the musical and compositional techniques and really taking on board the story and lyrics is going to be the best way of understanding how they work together, interplay and support one another to create the overall work.
posted by benzo8 at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the answers, as ill be trying to interpret the arias unassisted, do you have some things i should look out for when listening?
posted by freddymetz at 10:35 AM on February 18, 2008

I believe the Bach scholar Michael Marissen has written about this topic for the St John Passion. You might look at his work to get an idea of possible approaches to take.
posted by bluebird at 11:35 AM on February 18, 2008

Best answer: Speaking as a performer... I sang this mass during Easter. It's very moving. It's amazing how Bach captures the emotion of the story and puts it to music. He conveys anger, despair, sadness and mourning very well. But, I don't think it's any different from how any other composer would use the same technique to convey any other emotion. The passion is a very intense event and therefore the music is very intense.

I would suggest reading the passion accounts in the gospels--do you think Matthew's gospel is the best adaptation to music, in a dramatic setting like a passion mass?

Also... try listening to a few other passion masses to compare them.

How does Bach use particular voice ranges and instruments to get his point across?
posted by FergieBelle at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2008

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