Last year we featured All of Bach, a site that, in the fullness of time, will allow you to watch the Netherlands Bach Society perform each and every one of Bach’s compositions, completely for free. Back when we first posted about it, the site offered only five performances to watch, but now you’ll find a full 53 waiting there, ready for you to enjoy. Just above, we have BWV 565, “Toccata And Fugue In D Minor,” one of Bach’s most famous organ works, thanks in no small part to the frequency with which it appears on television, video game and movie soundtracks.
Every Friday brings a new performance of another Bach piece — until, that is, the Netherlands Bach Society gets through all 1080 of them. But between now and then, they’ve also got special musical events planned, such as a special performance of the whole of the St. Matthew Passion scheduled for this Friday, April 3. (You can now find it online here.) It will mark the probable 288th anniversary of the piece’s debut, an event which musical historians think happened in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church, where Bach served as cantor and chorus director.
“Lutherian severity lies at the core of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,” writes New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. “The immensity of Bach’s design — his use of a double chorus and a double orchestra; his interweaving of New Testament storytelling and latter-day meditations; the dramatic, almost operatic quality of the choral writing; the invasive beauty of the lamenting arias, which give the sense that Christ’s death is the acutest of personal losses — has the effect of pulling all of modern life into the Passion scene. By forcing the singers to enact both the arrogance of the tormentors and the helplessness of the victims, Bach underlines Luther’s point about the inescapability of guilt. A great rendition of the St. Matthew Passion should have the feeling of an eclipse, of a massive body throwing the world into shadow.”
In order to prepare yourself for this momentous musical event, have a look at the teaser for it in the middle of the post, and the behind-the-scenes documentary Closer to Bach in Naarden just above, which reveals the relationship the musicians of the Netherlands Bach Society have to the St. Matthew Passion. As you can see, they’ve taken pains to make sure that this Good Friday will, for music-lovers, prove to be a very good Friday indeed.
Find the Matthew Passion on All of Bach this Friday — the same place where you can find new recordings each week.
Update: The Matthew Passion is now online here.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.