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.
my Saviour suffered,” “Come, blessed Cross,” and “See the Saviour’s outstretched arm,” every one of which, not to speak of some other songs and most of the chorales, is sheer love music of the purest sort.  This, then, seems to me the difference between the “Matthew” Passion and its predecessor:  in the “John” Bach tried to purge his audience in the regular evangelical manner by pity and terror and hope.  But during the next six years his spiritual development was so amazing, that while remaining intellectually faithful to evangelical dogma and perhaps such bogies as the devil and hell, he yet saw that the best way of purifying his audience was to set Jesus of Nazareth before them as the highest type of manhood he knew, as the man who so loved men that He died for them.  There is therefore in the “Matthew” Passion neither the blank despair nor the feverish ecstasy of the “John,” for they have no part to play there.  Human sorrow and human love are the themes.  Whenever I hear a fine rendering of the “Matthew” Passion, it seems to me that no composer, not even Mozart, could be more tender than Bach.  It is often hard to get into communication with him, for he often appeals to feelings that no longer stir humanity—­such, for instance, as the obsolete “sense of sin,”—­but once it is done, he works miracles.  Take, for example, the scene in which Jesus tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him.  They ask, in chorus, “Herr, bin ich’s?” There is a pause, and the chorale, “Ich bin’s, ich sollte buessen,” is thundered out by congregation and organ; then the agony passes away at the thought of the Redeemer, and the last line, “Das hat verdienet meine Seel,” is almost intolerable in its sweetness.  The songs, of course, appeal naturally to-day to all who will listen to them; but it is in such passages as this that Bach spoke most powerfully to his generation, and speaks now to those who will learn to understand him.  Those who understand him can easily perceive the “John” Passion to be a powerful artistic embodiment of an eighteenth century idea; and they may also perceive that the “Matthew” is greater, because it is, on the whole, a little more beautiful, and because its main idea—­which so far transcended the eighteenth century understanding that the eighteenth century preferred the “John”—­is one of the loftiest that has yet visited the human mind.


Mr. George Frideric Handel is by far the most superb personage one meets in the history of music.  He alone of all the musicians lived his life straight through in the grand manner.  Spohr had dignity; Gluck insisted upon respect being shown a man of his talent; Spontini was sufficiently self-assertive; Beethoven treated his noble patrons as so many handfuls of dirt.  But it is impossible altogether to lose sight of the peasant in Beethoven and Gluck; Spohr had more than a trace of the successful shopkeeper; Spontini’s assertion often became mere insufferable

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