The Passio secundum Joannem or St John Passion German: Johannes-Passion), BWV 245, is a Passion or oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, the older of the surviving Passions by Bach. It was written during Bach's first year as director of church music in Leipzig and was first performed on April 7, 1724, at Good Friday Vespers at the St. Nicholas Church.(
The structure of the work falls in two halves, intended to flank a sermon. The anonymous libretto draws on existing works (notably Brockes') and is compiled from recitatives and choruses narrating the Passion of Christ as told in the Gospel of John, ariosos and arias reflecting on the action, and chorales using hymn tunes and texts familiar to a congregation of Bach's contemporaries.Compared with the St Matthew Passion , the St John Passion has been described as more extravagant, with an expressive immediacy, at times more unbridled and less "finished".
The work is most often heard today in the 1739–1749 version (never performed during Bach's lifetime). Bach first performed the oratorio in 1724 and revised it in 1725, 1732, and 1749, adding several numbers. " O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß ", a 1725 replacement for the opening chorus, found a new home in the 1736 St Matthew Passion but several arias from the revisions are found only in the appendices to modern editions.[ citation needed ]
Originally Bach intended that the St John Passion would be first performed in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, but due to a last-minute change by the music council, it was first performed on Good Friday (as observed by German Protestants) of 1724 in the St. Nicholas Church, shortly after Bach's 39th birthday.Bach quickly agreed to their desire to move the service to St. Nicholas Church,
but pointed out that the booklet was already printed, that there was no room available and that the harpsichord needed some repair, all of which, however, could be attended to at little cost; but he requested that a little additional room be provided in the choir loft of St. Nicholas Church, where he planned to place the musicians needed to perform the music. He also asked that the harpsichord be repaired.
The council agreed and sent a flyer announcing the new location to all the people around Leipzig. The council made the arrangements requested by Bach regarding the harpsichord and space needed for the choir.
The St John Passion is written for a four-part choir with soloists, as well as an instrumental ensemble of strings and basso continuo with pairs of flauti traversi and oboes, the latter both doubling on oboe da caccia. For special colors Bach also used lute, viola d'amore and viola da gamba, instruments that were already old-fashioned at the time.[ citation needed ]
In present-day performances the part of Jesus is often given to one bass soloist, Pilate and the bass arias to another. Some tenors sing the Evangelist – a very demanding part – and the arias. The smaller parts (Peter, Maid, Servant) are sometimes performed by choir members.[ citation needed ]
Bach followed chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John in the Luther Bible, and the tenor Evangelist follows exactly the words of that bible. The compiler of the additional poetry is unknown. Models are the Brockes Passion and a Johannes-Passion by Christian Heinrich Postel. The first scene is in the Kidron Valley, and the second in the palace of the high priest Kaiphas. Part Two shows three scenes, one with Pontius Pilate, one at Golgatha, and the third finally at the burial site. The dramatic argument between Pilate, Jesus, and the crowd is not interrupted by reflective elements but a single central chorale, #22 (note that this particular numbering is only used by the NBA).
Bach followed the Gospel of John but added two lines from the Gospel of Matthew, the crying of Peter and the tearing of the veil in the temple (in Version I, this second line was replaced by the line from the Gospel of Mark).
He chose the chorales:
For the words of the aria "Ach, mein Sinn" (#13), Bach used an adaptation of a 1675 poem by Christian Weise, "Der weinende Petrus".
For the central chorale (#22) "Durch dein Gefängnis, Gottes Sohn, muß uns die Freiheit kommen" ("Through Your prison, Son of God, must freedom come to us) Bach adapted the words of an aria from the Johannes-Passion of Christian Heinrich Postel (1700) and used the melody of "Mach's mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" by Johann Hermann Schein. The architecture of Part Two shows symmetry around this movement, the music of the preceding chorus #21f "Wir haben ein Gesetz" corresponds to #23b "Lässest du diesen los", the demand #21d "Kreuzige ihn!" is repeated in an intensified way in #23d "Weg, weg mit dem, kreuzige ihn!", #21b "Sei gegrüßet, lieber Jüdenkönig" reappears as #25b "Schreibe nicht: der Jüden König".
Researchers have discovered that Bach revised his St John Passion several times before producing a final version in the 1740s.Alternate numbers that Bach introduced in 1725 but later removed can be found in the appendix to scores of the work, such as that of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (and heard in the recording by Emmanuel Music directed by Craig Smith, cited below).
The St John Passion was not Bach's first passion. While he was working as Konzertmeister (1714–1717) in Weimar, Bach possibly wrote a Passion, known as the Weimarer Passion , but it is now lost. [ citation needed ]Sometimes while listening to the St John Passion today one can sense an older feel to some of the music, and some scholars believe that those portions are the surviving parts of the Weimar Passion. Unlike the St Matthew Passion, to which Bach made very few and insignificant changes, the St John Passion was subject to several major revisions. The version most familiar to us today is not the original version from 1724, but rather the version of 1739–1749. In the 1724 version, the Recitative Movement No. 33 reads "Und die Vorhang im Tempel zerriß in zwei Stück; von oben an bis unten aus." (Mark 15, 33) and was in 3 measures. From 1725 on, this was replaced by the more familiar 7-measure quote from Matthew 27: 51–52 (except in the 3rd version, in which this was taken out altogether).
In 1725, Bach replaced the opening and closing choruses and added three arias (BWV 245a-c) while cutting one (Ach, mein Sinn) from the original version.The opening chorus was replaced by O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß, which was later transposed and reused at the end of part one of the St Matthew Passion. The closing chorale was replaced by a brilliant setting of "Christe, du Lamm Gottes", taken from the cantata Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23. The three new arias are not known to have been reused.
In the 1730s, Bach revised the St John Passion again, restoring the original opening chorus, removing the final Chorale (thus ending the work with the choral Movement No. 39), and removing the three new arias. [ citation needed ] Overall, Bach chose to keep the biblical text, and inserted Lutheran hymn verses so that he could return the work to its liturgical substance.He also excised the two interpolations from the Gospel of Matthew that appeared in the work, probably due to objections by the ecclesiastical authorities. The first of these he simply removed; he composed a new instrumental sinfonia in lieu of the second. He also inserted an aria to replace the still-missing Ach, mein Sinn. Neither the aria nor the sinfonia has been preserved.
In 1749, he reverted more or less to the original of 1724, making only slight changes to the orchestration, most notably replacing the by-then almost obsolete viola d'amore with muted violins. [ clarification needed ]Also, Bach's orchestra for this piece would have been very delicate in nature because he called for many gamba strings.
In the summer of 1815, Bach's Passions began to be studied once again. Parts of the St John Passion were being rehearsed and the St Matthew Passion was soon to follow.Fred Wolle, with his Choral Union of 1888 at the Moravian town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was the first to perform the St John Passion in the Americas. This spurred a revival of Bach's choral music in the New World.
While writing the St John Passion, Bach intended to retain the congregational spirit of the worship service.The text for the body of the work is taken from the Gospel of John chapters 18 and 19. To augment these chapters, which he summarized in the music, Bach used an elaborate body of commentary consisting of hymns, which were often called chorales, and arias. He adhered to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible and made no noticeable modifications. Bach proved that the sacred opera as a musical genre did not have to become shallow in liturgical use by remaining loyal to the cantus firmus and the scriptural word. He did not want the Passion taken as a lesser sacred concert. The text for the opening prayer, "Herr, unser Herrscher, dessen Ruhm", as well as the arias, chorales and the penultimate chorus "Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine", come from various other sources. Two recitative passages, the first dealing with Peter's weeping after his betrayal and the second portraying the temple veil's ripping during the crucifixion, do not appear in the Gospel of John, but the Gospel of Matthew.
A modern example originating in Communist Hungary demonstrates the congregational character of St John Passion. In the early 1950s musicians were allowed to play church music only in the frame of liturgy. However, the St John Passion is an almost complete Lutheran liturgy, focused on the Evangelium . Hence, by inserting four missing features, the whole Passion could be performed as if it were part of the liturgy. [ better source needed ]There would have been no applause, either at the beginning or at the end. The Passion contains quite a few chorales that were in regular use in worship. The congregation and the audience, however, remained silent.
The text Bach set to music has been criticized as anti-Semitic.This accusation is closely connected to a wider controversy regarding the tone of the New Testament's Gospel of John with regards to Judaism.
Lukas Foss, who came to the United States in 1937 as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, changed the text from "Juden" to "Leute" (people) when he conducted performances of the work.This has been the trend of numerous mainline Christian denominations since the late 20th century as well, for instance, the Episcopal Church, when they read the gospel during Good Friday services. Michael Marissen's Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's 'St John's Passion' examines the controversy in detail. He concludes that Bach's St John Passion and St Matthew Passion contain fewer statements derogatory toward Jews than many other contemporary musical settings of the Passion. He also noted that Bach used words for the commenting arias and hymns that tended to shift the blame for the death of Jesus from "the Jews" to the congregation of Christians.
The St Matthew Passion, BWV 244, is a Passion, a sacred oratorio written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander. It sets the 26th and 27th chapters of the Gospel of Matthew to music, with interspersed chorales and arias. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of Baroque sacred music. The original Latin title Passio Domini nostri J.C. secundum Evangelistam Matthæum translates to "The Passion of our Lord J[esus] C[hrist] according to the Evangelist Matthew".
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, BWV 6, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach for use in a Lutheran service. He composed it in Leipzig in 1725 for Easter Monday and first performed it on 2 April 1725.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7, in Leipzig for the Feast of St. John the Baptist and led its first performance on 24 June 1724.
Throughout his life as a musician, Johann Sebastian Bach composed cantatas for both secular and sacred use. His church cantatas are cantatas which he composed for use in the Lutheran church, mainly intended for the occasions of the liturgical year.
Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, BWV 110, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the Christmas cantata in Leipzig for Christmas Day and first performed it on 25 December 1725.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96, in Leipzig for the 18th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 8 October 1724. The chorale cantata, part of Bach's second annual cycle, is based on the hymn in five stanzas "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn" by Elisabeth Cruciger, published in Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn in 1524.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben, BWV 109, in Leipzig for the 21st Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 17 October 1723.
Vox Christi, Latin for Voice of Christ, is a setting of Jesus' words in a vocal work such as a Passion, an Oratorium or a Cantata. Conventionally, for instance in Protestant music of the Baroque era, the vox Christi is set for a bass voice.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 116, in Leipzig for the 25th Sunday after Trinity. He led the first performance on 26 November 1724, concluding the liturgical year of 1724.
As Thomaskantor, Johann Sebastian Bach provided Passion music for Good Friday services in Leipzig. The extant St Matthew Passion and St John Passion are Passion oratorios composed by Bach.
The Weimarer Passion, BWV deest, is a hypothetical Passion oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, thought to have possibly been performed on Good Friday 26 March 1717 at Gotha on the basis of a payment of 12 Thaler on 12 April 1717 to "Concert Meister Bachen". It is one of several such lost Passions. Both the text and music are lost, but individual movements from this work could have been reused in latter works such as the Johannes-Passion. At one time, it was thought that the work set chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew to music, with interspersed chorales and arias, but current consensus is that it is possible that the text reflected a synopsis of two or more Gospel texts, as well as the interspersed chorales and arias.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BWV 135 in Leipzig for the third Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 25 June 1724. It is the fourth chorale cantata from his second annual cycle, and is based on the hymn by Cyriakus Schneegass.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101 in Leipzig for the tenth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 13 August 1724. The chorale cantata is based on the hymn by Martin Moller (1584).
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 113 in Leipzig for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 20 August 1724. The chorale cantata is based on the hymn "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt (1588).
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180, in Leipzig for the 20th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 22 October 1724.
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach for use in a Lutheran service. He composed the chorale cantata in 1725 in Leipzig for the Sunday Estomihi, the Sunday before Lent. It is based on Paul Eber's 1582 hymn in eight stanzas "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott". Bach first performed it on 11 February 1725.
There are 52 chorale cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach surviving in at least one complete version. Around 40 of these were composed during his second year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, which started after Trinity Sunday 4 June 1724, and form the backbone of his chorale cantata cycle. The eldest known cantata by Bach, an early version of Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4, presumably written in 1707, was a chorale cantata. The last chorale cantata he wrote in his second year in Leipzig was Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, first performed on Palm Sunday, 25 March 1725. In the ten years after that he wrote at least a dozen further chorale cantatas and other cantatas that were added to his chorale cantata cycle.
Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg, BWV 149, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the work in Leipzig for Michaelmas and first performed it on 29 September 1729. It is the last of his three extant cantatas for the feast.
The structure of the St John Passion, BWV 245, a sacred oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, is "carefully designed with a great deal of musico-theological intent". Some main aspects of the structure are shown in tables below.
Johann Sebastian Bach's chorale cantata cycle is the year-cycle of church cantatas he started composing in Leipzig from the first Sunday after Trinity in 1724. It followed the cantata cycle he had composed from his appointment as Thomaskantor after Trinity in 1723.