Easter is approaching, and it is good to focus on our Lord’s death and resurrection. When we lived in the Netherlands, one Easter tradition some of our friends had was attending the St. Matthew Passion. Others sang in it. Now people all around the world can watch it online.
Centuries ago, J. S. Bach wrote this incredible work, the St. Matthew Passion, (or listen to a more lively performance here) to tell the story of Christ’s death, making it both real and relevant to the listeners. Using words directly from the gospel of Matthew as well as German hymns and devotional lyrics, Bach wove together an amazing three hour musical devotional. No wonder some call him the fifth evangelist, after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!
You can listen to and watch this old but beautiful performance of the St. Matthew Passion conducted by Karl Richter, free, online. The singing is, obviously, in German, but this video has subtitles. Or you can download the lyrics in German and English, both for Part 1, meant to be performed before the Good Friday sermon, and Part 2, to be performed after it.
As Bach would say, “Soli Deo Gloria,” to God alone be the glory.
Not only is this a devotional piece of music; it is also one of the greatest musical works ever written and as such deserves a place in the classical homeschool. The St. Matthew Passion is studied in the Omnibus Curriculum.
Note: This DVD is currently available from ArkivMusic.
Addition: Just this afternoon someone sent me the following, and this recording is also wonderful:
In honor of Helmuth Rilling’s 44 years as artistic director, the Oregon Bach Festival offers a new website on the St. Matthew Passion. It is best viewed on full screen (or on laptop ). The website offers the libretto in fifteen languages. Adobe Flash is required.
Throughout his 44 years as master teacher, conductor, and artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival, Helmuth Rilling has demonstrated a deep respect for Bach’s liturgical music as the public enactment of a particular community’s beliefs and its commitments. In this performance by the Gächinger Kantorei and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart (courtesy of Hänssler Classic), he guides us through the narrative of the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life as recorded by the Evangelist, St. Matthew. It is an inspiring and moving experience, with important lessons for all people.
Soloists include Michael Schade (Evangelist), Christiane Oelze, Ingeborg Danz, Matthias Goerne, and Thomas Quasthoff.
Partners in the Digitalbach Project include the Hinkle Charitable Foundation, the Oregon Bach Festival, Hänssler Classic, and Northern Arizona University.
Disclosure: As usual, I am not compensated for this post.