Easter post: Bach’s Easter Oratorio, BWV 249

Happy Easter to Christian readers of the Western communion! Here is some Bach for the occasion: a cantata that’s now generally referred to as the Easter Oratorio.

Now that we’re on the subject of Bach and Easter: the librettos of the Mattheuspassion BWV 244, and especially the Johannispassion BWV 245, contain some statements blaming the death of Jesus on the Jews that were common currency in Bach’s time and place. (The libretto/text was not written by Bach but by his frequent collaborator Picander [pen name of Christian Friedrich Henrici, 1700-1764].) If anything, it seems that in the Johannispassion , Bach elided/skipped Picander’s most pungent anti-judaic statements.)

A music professor from the University of Erfurt (himself Jewish) has a few things to say (in German) that I cannot resist translating two statements from:

Interestingly, some of the initiators of this project [to ‘cleanse’ Bach’s Matthew- and John-Passions of judeophobia] are also known as anti-Israel activists. They want to abolish Israel as a Jewish state, but are bothered by Bach’s portrayal of Jews.

This is my shocked face 😉 In an exercise of utter “presentism” (judging people from the distant past according to present-day moral imperatives that would have been alien to them at their time and place), they point at the putative mote in Bach’s eye while ignoring the beam in their own.

These debates are expressions of a pseudo-resistance, a ‘retroactive civil courage’, that seeks to hide the indifference about contemporary forms of antisemitism. It is indeed much less dangerous to fight the trumped-up antisemitism of Bach, than to fight the utterly real antisemites and enemies of Israel of today.

Amen, brother.

Video of the month: Bari Weiss in dialogue with the Hoover Institute “Goodfellows” on “The Great Awokening”

Watch the whole thing

Seriously, watch the whole thing, if you’re only going to watch one extended video about the culture wars in the US. Note that Bari Weiss (born in 1984!) does not speak from a conservative perspective: she herself says “by rights, I should be a member in good standing of the progressive left”. This makes her indictment of wokeism more trenchant than that of yet another traditional conservative or libertarian.

Among the three goodfellows, all of whom are interesting, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson puts in very thoughtful responses.

Bach: Mattheuspassion/Matthew Passion BWV 244

Today is Good Friday for Christians of the Western communion (for us, this year, it’s the 6th day of Passover). In honor of the day, herewith Bach’s immortal musical setting of the Passion story from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Here is a historically informed performance in chamber tuning (A=415 Hz, a semitone down from modern concert pitch), with HD video:

While here is a powerful performance in modern concert pitch (audio only):

More than one Lutheran has been known to refer to J. S. Bach as the Fifth Evangelist. The music will make you understand why.