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Sermons in Sound: The Theology of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passions

Loewe, Andreas (2010) Sermons in Sound: The Theology of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passions. In: Society for the Study of Theology Conference 2010, April 2010, University of Manchester. (Submitted to be assessed for publication)

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Abstract

J. S. Bach’s Passions were revolutionary: musically, textually, and theologically. Unlike earlier composers who used the traditional Good Friday Vespers for a musical performance to a passive audience, Bach’s libretti and musical settings engaged radically with Martin Luther’s understanding of liturgy, preaching and the role of music.
Bach’s Passions are hybrid works, making use of a range of musical and literary genres. Unlike plainchant or polyphonic settings of the biblical texts, or contemporary through-composed paraphrases of the story, in his Passions Bach combined Baroque recitativo of Luther’s translation of the Bible, with popular hymns, and virtuosic settings of contemporary devotional poetry.
For Luther music was both sermo et vox [Word and voice]: a fundamental vehicle to communicate the Word of God and to effect a personal response in the listener. Bach’s detailed musical exegesis and word setting make use of Lutheran theological and homiletic skills as well as musical, an emphasis underlined by Bach’s re-positioning of the sermon at the centre of the Passion performance.
Close readings of Bach’s word setting and compositional technique in the Passions will give an insight into his exegetical and devotional program to ensure that, ‘bey einer andächtig[en] Musik ist allerzeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden-Gegenwart’ [in sacred music God is always present by his grace].

Item Type: Conference Papers (Paper)
Repository Version: Author's Final Manuscript
Keywords: Bach, Luther, Music, Passions, Word, Sermon, Sermo, Vox, Reception, History
Fields of Research: 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210307 European History (excl. British, Classical Greek and Roman)
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Applied Research
Subjects: C - Church History
B - New Testament
College/Association with University of Divinity: UFT-TCTS: United Faculty of Theology - Trinity College Theological School
Depositing User: Revd Dr Andreas Loewe
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2011 21:38
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2011 21:38
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/841

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