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Write a concise account of the history of the Lutheran passion up to Bach's Matthew Passion. Were all the developments improvements?

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Write a concise account of the history of the Lutheran passion up to Bach's Matthew Passion. Were all the developments improvements? Passion music, i.e. the setting of the Passion of Christ to music for performance during Holy Week, has been a tradition for centuries. It has gone through many changes, the most dramatic of which occurred during and after the Reformation in Germany. These are called Lutheran Passions, because they are most influenced by the style and theology of Martin Luther and the composers were usually writing for the Lutheran Church in Germany. I would like to discuss the developments that occurred and explain what I think and whether or not they were improvements. Overall I think the changes to the style were positive, and necessary for the survival and popularity of the genre. The performance of the Passion dates back to the very early church; the dramatic spoken recital of gospels in church can be traced back to the fourth century. The performance of sung passions was established by the twelfth century, where 3 clergy members sang; the narrator was a tenor, Christ a bass and the crowd were represented by an alto. In the Middle Ages, some simple choral participation was added as the crowd part and it became the Responsorial Passion. The motet, another type of passion, was the product of the Renaissance, and the 17th Century brought the Oratorio Passion and the Seven Last Words of Christ. ...read more.


a dance form and cross rhythms for the music under the words 'crucified on the cross', an obvious juxtaposition of joyous music and deadly serious words. Johann Sebastiani (1622-83) wrote a Matthew Passion around 1663, which was quite conservative, but introduced the string halo to represent Christ, and he drops the violins for the words 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?', a feature emulated by Bach in his Matthew Passion. Sebastiani introduced chorales as a commentary tool; he has seventeen different settings of the same chorale melody throughout his passion. Christ's vocal line is slightly different from other composers; quite often it is the bass line or doubles the bass line. This is typical of 17th Century thinking that the bass line is the firm foundation of music, and possibly a metaphor for Christ being the firm foundation on which we should build our faith. Johann Theile (1646-1724) was a well-known musical theorist, a pupil of Sch�tz and friend of Buxtehude. He wrote a Matthew Passion which like Sebastiani's passion, finds Christ at the bottom of the texture as the cornerstone, and again accompanied by violins. The juxtaposition of the high and low here may signify that Christ is at all ends of the spectrum; the high and low, the Alpha and Omega. Only Christ has instrumental accompaniment, all other singers have continuo alone; the texture is relentless, but becomes placid when Christ sings, a feature unique to Theile as a composer. ...read more.


Puritans would argue that if one enjoys listening to the passion it is lascivious and one should be feeling guilty for being a member of the human race that murdered Christ. This is rooted in the theology of the Roman Church, which used religion and guilt as a means of controlling the peasants in the middle ages. In conclusion, I believe that the developments I have described in this essay were improvements; one is so much more inspired listening to a Bach passion than the Walter passion for example. The Bach passions present the story in a much more accessible way than Bach's predecessors did, therefore promoting the word of God in a more positive way than before. I think this is why Bach's passions have outlasted in popularity over the composers immediately predating him and the inspirational quality accounts for the appeal of the Bach passions to non-church audiences. Lecture Notes: J.S Bach and the Passion Tradition, lectures given by Prof. J. Butt Grout, Palisca: A history of Western Music fifth edition, pub Norton. The Cambridge companion to Bach, Edited by John Butt, Cambridge University Press. Oxford composer companions; J.S. Bach, Edited by Malcolm Boyd, Oxford University Press. Luther and the Reformation, V.H.H Green. "Reformation" and "Counter-Reformation". Encyclopaedia Britannica 2003. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, accessed 16 October 2003, <http://www.britannica.com> "Reformation", "Catholic Church Music", "Lutheran Church music". Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 16th October 2003), <http://www.grovemusic.com> St John Passion, St Matthew Passion, composer J.S. Bach, published by B�renreiter. Bachs Mattha�spassion, Heuss. 0308201 1 ...read more.

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