Friday, April 22, 2011

Music for Holy Week, Part 5 – excerpts from Johannes Passion and Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz

Descent from the Cross, by Peter Paul RubensThroughout this Holy Week, we have been featuring excerpts from recordings of liturgical compositions which deliver to their hearer the very words of Christ's Passion according to Gospel writers, in song. During Holy Week, the historic Lutheran Church had selected lessons from each of the Gospels for each day of the week, such that the Passion of Christ would be heard by the congregation from the perspective of each Evangelist, and these lessons were presented to the congregation as part of the liturgy. It was also customary that the Gospel not be merely read, but chanted or sung. The excerpts we have featured this week demonstrate various liturgical compositions via which liturgists would deliver these lessons -- and not just any compositions, but the works of two of the most important German composers in Western history: Johann Sebastian Bach and Heinrich Schütz. On Monday, in Part 1 of this "Music for Holy Week" series, we provided a brief biography of these composers, including some details indicating their importance to Lutheran liturgical music and its resulting impact, and we invite the reader to visit that post for further information.

We have, in the previous four days this week, visited the Passion accounts of St. Matthew (Monday), St. Mark (Tuesday), St. John (Wednesday), and St. Luke (Thursday). Today, Good Friday, we revisit the Passion according to St. John in a recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's Johannes Passion, and also hear a composition by Heinrich Schütz that would be heard during the Good Friday Tenebrae Service: Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz -- the Seven last Words of Christ on the Cross.

Here are two musical settings of the Gospel accounts. The first is an excerpt from Bach's Johannes Passion; the second is a full performance of Schütz's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz.

Excerpt from Bach’s Johannes Passion

Full performance of Schütz’s Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz
I personally enjoy this Mauersberger recording of Schütz’s Die Sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz.


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