Monday, February 11, 2008

Lenten Silence

When J.S. Bach lived and worked in Leipzig, the Lenten season was strictly observed, and instrumental music was not allowed in church or home. Bach composed only one cantata for the season (BWV 80), and that was done in Weimar many years earlier. The preeminent works during Lent were the Passions, performed on Holy Week. I will be listening to the St. Matthew Passion during the entire season of Lent and posting my comments.

I have chosen the recording by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrielli Players. This has been a somewhat controversial reading of Bach, using the theory of OVPP (one voice per part). Aside from disagreements over this theory, the McCreesh recording has received rave reviews, and I am looking forward to listening closely to it.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Check out the Bach Cantatas Website for a comprehensive look at these wonderful pieces of music, the Lutheran Church Year, and a wide variety of other pertinent information.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008


The story of Jesus stilling the storm in Matthew 8.23-27 forms the background of BWV 81, "Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen?" (Jesus sleeps, what should be my hope?).

A tenor recitative early in the cantata makes reference to the Epiphany story and thus ties the whole season together:

Lord! why do you walk so far away?
Why do you hide yourself in the time of my distress
when everything threatens me with a lamentable end?
Ah, is your eye not moved by my distress
that at other times is never accustomed to sleep?
You showed with a star
once to the newly converted wise men
the right way to travel.
Ah guide me by the light of your eyes
since this way promises nothing but danger.

He who guided the magi by the star, he who spoke the word and calmed the tempest, is the Light who will guide in all our dark times. The final word of the season is, "Jesus stands by me."