St Matthew Passion Day Six

The following is part six of my Holy Week Reflections on J. S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I will include a little information each day along with scripture, musical examples and translated text. The Spotify Playlist at the end of each post will be the complete highlight playlist.

I hope you will join me as we travel through just a portion of this most sublime work.

Christ Crucified, 1632, Diego Velazquez, 1599-1660. oil on canvas, 97.6 x 66.5 inches, Museo del Prado, Spain. Image Source

The Basics

Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) written in 1727 for a Good Friday service in 1727 at the Church of St. Thomas in Leipzig, Germany.

The Music

The passages I have chosen for today are a mix of Recitative and Aria. Recitative is a speech that is sung in a declamatory style that imitates the rhythm, pitch and drama of speech fluctuations. It is sort of half singing half declaration. The recitative moments are those that give information and carry the plot forward. So far I have been just giving you the Bible scripture to read but this scene I thought was so powerful, I wanted you to experience the bone chilling effect of how Bach captured the mocking of the crowd with the double chorus.

Recitative – Evangelist

Und da sie an die Statte kamen mit Namen Golgatha, das ist verdeutschet Schadelstatt, gaben sie ihm Essig zu trinken mit Gallen vermischet; und da er’s schmeckete, wollte er’s nicht trinken.

Da sie ihn aber gekreuziget hatten, teilten sie seine Kleider und wurfen das Los darum, auf das erfullet wurde, das gesagt ist durch den Propheten: “Sie haben meine Kleider unter sich geteilet, und uber mein Gewand haben sie das Los geworfen.” Und sie sasen allda und huteten sein. Und oben zu seinen Haupten hefteten sie die Ursach seines Todes beschrieben, namlich: “Dies ist Jesus, der Juden Konig.” Und da wurden zween Morder mit ihm gekreuziget, einer zur Rechten und einer zur Linken. Die aber vorubergingen, lasterten ihn und schuttelten ihre Kopfe und sprachen:


Der du den Tempel Gottes zerbrichst und bauest ihn in dreien Tagen, hilf dir selber! Bist du Gottes Sohn, so steig herab vom Kreuz!

Recitative – Evangelist

Desgleichen auch die Hohenpriester spotteten sein samt den Schriftgelehrten und Altesten und sprachen:


Andern hat er geholfen und kann ihm selber nicht helfen. Ist er der Konig Israel, so steige er nun vom Kreuz, so wollen wir ihm glauben. Er hat Gott vertrauet, der erlose ihn nun, lustet’s ihn; denn er hat gesagt: “Ich bin Gottes Sohn.”

Recitative – Evangelist

Desgleichen schmaheten ihn auch die Morder, die mit ihm gekreuziget waren.

And when they came unto a place with the name of Golgotha, which is to say, the place of a skull, they did give him vinegar to drink which had been mixed with gall; and when he tasted it, he refused to drink it.

But after they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots for them, that it might be accomplished what had been said by the prophet: “They have divided all my garments among them and over mine own vesture did they cast lots.” And they sat all around and guarded him there. And over his head they fastened the reason for his death in writing, namely: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” And with him were two murderers also crucified, one on the right hand, another on the left. But those who there passed by derided him both wagging their heads before him and said:

Thou that destroyest the temple of God, and buildest it in three day save thyself. If thou art the Son of God, come down now from the cross.

In like wise also the chief priests mocked him together with the scribes and elders and said:

He saved others, and cannot save himself. If he be King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross, and then we will believe in him. He hath trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he want him; for he hath said: I am the Son of God.

In like wise also did the murderers mock him, who with him had been crucified.

Below is the entire playlist for the week. Today we are listening and reflecting on track six.

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