Old Scores and New Readings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Old Scores and New Readings.
uttering with unheard-of poignancy the remorse supposed to be felt by mankind whose guilt occasioned that suffering.  The central point in the two Passions is the same, namely, the backsliding of Peter; and in each the words, “He went out and wept bitterly,” are given the greatest prominence; but one need only contrast the acute agony expressed in the song, “Ach mein Sinn,” which follows the incident in the “John,” with the sweetness of “Have mercy upon me,” which follows it in the “Matthew,” to gain a fair notion of the spirit in which the one work, and also the spirit in which the other, is written.  The next point to note is, that while the “Matthew” begins with lamentation and ends with resignation, “John” begins and ends with hope and praise.  In the former there is no chorus like the opening “Herr, unser, Herrscher,” no chorale so triumphant as “Ach grosser Koenig,” and certainly no single passage so rapturous as “Alsdann vom Tod erwecke mich, Dass meine Augen sehen dich, In aller Freud, O Gottes Sohn” (with the bass mounting to the high E flat and rolling magnificently down again).  So in the “John” Passion Bach has given us, first, a vivid picture of the turbulent crowd and of the suffering and death of Christ; second, an expression of man’s bitterest remorse; and, last and above all, an expression of man’s hope for the future and his thankfulness to Christ who redeemed him.  These are what one remembers after hearing the work sung; and these, it may be remarked, are the things that the seventeenth and eighteenth century mind chiefly saw in the sorrow and death of Jesus of Nazareth.


The “Matthew” Passion arouses a very different mood from that aroused by the “John.”  One does not remember the turbulent people’s choruses, nor the piercing note of anguish, nor any rapturous song or chorus; for all else is drowned in the recollection of an overwhelming utterance of love and human sorrow and infinite tenderness.  Much else there is in the “Matthew” Passion, just as there is love and tenderness in the “John”; but just as these are subordinated in the “John” to the more striking features I have mentioned, so in the “Matthew” the noise of the people and the expression of keen remorse are subordinated to love and human tenderness and infinite sorrow.  The small number and conciseness of the people’s choruses have already been alluded to, and it may easily be shown that the penitential music is brief compared with the love music, besides having a great deal of the love, the yearning love, feeling in it.  The list of penitential pieces is exhausted when I have mentioned “Come, ye daughters,” “Guilt for sin,” “Break and die,” “O Grief,” “Alas! now is my Saviour gone,” and “Have mercy upon me”; and, on the other hand, we have “Thou blessed Saviour,” the Last Supper music, the succeeding recitative and song, “O man, thy heavy sin lament,” “To us He hath done all things,” “For love

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Old Scores and New Readings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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