Cover image for Johann Sebastian Bach, St. John Passion : genesis, transmission, and meaning
Johann Sebastian Bach, St. John Passion : genesis, transmission, and meaning
Dürr, Alfred, 1918-2011.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Johannes-Passion von Johann Sebastian Bach. English
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 182 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library ML410.B13 D813 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This book (published in German by Barenreiter in 1988 and now available in English translation for the first time) is a comprehensive guide to the genesis, transmission, structure, meaning, and performance considerations of Bach's St John Passion. The St John Passion is one of Bach's most fascinating works. Its text demonstrates a profound understanding of St John's Gospel. The musical design of the choruses with their numerous interrelationships is quite unique and requires some explanation. The fact that the Passion exists in fourdifferent versions leads Durr to ask which changes were intentional and which were the result of practical constraints or of orders issued by church authorities. The introduction to the work is preceded by a detailed account of its genesis and transmission, and the uniquely complicated nature of the sources. The discussion of the Passion itself is based on the assumption that what Bach wanted to say to the Leipzig congregation on Good Friday was designedto be understood in verbal and musical terms. Number symbolism, 'eye music', and encrypted information do not form the essence of what Bach was trying to communicate to us.

Author Notes

Alfred Durr is one of the principal editors of the Neue Bach Ausgabe in which he edited Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. He is the author of the standard work in German on Bach's cantatas. (An English translation of this book, by Richard D.P. Jones, is in progress.) He holds honorarydoctorates of music at Baldwin-Wallace College, Ohio and at Oxford University.Alfred Clayton (translator) has translated numerous books, including (for OUP) Paul Badura-Skoda: Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Durr is a German musicologist and one of the most influential Bach scholars of the 20th century. He and George Dadelsen were responsible for revising the Bach cantata chronology in the 1950s. This revision became the source for the current view of Bach as a composer with interests beyond his occupation as a Lutheran musician. Durr also published an important collection (in German) of descriptive essays on all of the Bach cantatas. This first publication in English of his work on one of the masterpieces of Bach's huge vocal repertory is a major addition to Bach scholarship. Of the three sections--on genesis, transmission, and meaning--perhaps the most interesting is the second, which compares the original and revised scores and studies the original parts. The four appendixes consider "problems," such as the question of the use of transverse flutes in version 1. This reviewer would have welcomed an introduction surveying the scholarship since this book was first published (in German, 1988) and an updated bibliography reflecting the current interest in anti-Judaism in the text and matters of structural analysis. Nevertheless, this important publication should be available to all Bach scholars at the upper-division undergraduate level through professionals. J. P. Ambrose University of Vermont

Table of Contents

1 Genesis
Did Bach compose a Passion before 1724?
1 Version I (1724)
2 Version II (1725)
3 Version III (c. 1730)
4 Version IV (c. 1749)
5 Score A
2 Transmission
1 The lost original score X (1724?)
2 The revised score (source A, c. 1739-1749)
3 The original parts: Introduction
Set I
Set II
Set IV Parts no longer extant
3 Meaning
1 Protestant settings of the Passion
2 The text of the St John Passion
a The depiction of the Passion in the Gospel according to St John
b The Gospel text
c The chorale verses
d The free poetry
3 Bach's music
a The setting of the biblical narrative
b The chorale movements
c The choruses
d The arias and ariosos
4 Problms associated with the overall formal design and the different versions
5 Performance practice
a General remarks
b The execution of the continuo
c Specific problems
Appendices: Problematical Points
Appendix I The participation of transverse flutes in Version I
Appendix II The reconstruction of Movement 33 in Version I
Appendix III The chronology of the Passions Bach performed in Leipzig
Appendix IV The problem of symmetry in Bach's work
Picture Credits
Text of the St John Passion (German and English)

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