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Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion: With an Annotated Literal Translation of the Libretto (英語) ハードカバー – 1998/4/30
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Bach's St. John Passion is surely one of the monuments of Western music, yet performances are inevitably controversial. In large part, this is because of the combination of the powerful and highly emotional music and a text that includes passages from a gospel marked by vehement anti-Judaic sentiments. What did this masterpiece mean in Bach's day and what does it mean today?
Although bibliographies on Bach and Judaism have grown enormously since World War II, there has been very little work on the relationship between the two areas. This is hardly surprising; Judaica scholars and culture critics focusing on issues of anti-Semitism commonly lack musical training and are, in any event, quite reasonably interested in even more pressing social and political issues. Bach scholars, on the other hand, have mostly concentrated on narrowly defined musical topics. Strangely, therefore, almost no scholarly attention has been given to relationships between Lutheranism and the religion of Judaism as they affect Bach's most controversial work, the St. John Passion. Through a reappraisal of Bach's work and its contexts, Marissen confronts Bach and Judaism directly, providing interpretive commentary that could serve as a basis for a more informed and sensitive discussion of this troubling work. Consisting of a long interpretive essay, followed by an annotated literal translation of the libretto, a guide to recorded examples, and a detailed bibliography, this concise text provides the reader with the tools to assess the work on its own terms and in the appropriate context.
The value of having the libretto, German and English, printed after the essay part of the book, quite apart from the supplementary and supporting material, is considerable (Jewish Culture and History)
Particularly deserving of praise is the fine translation of the Passion text from German (Religious Studies Review)
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Consequently the brevity of Michael Marissen's 36-page essay on the subject of anti-Judaism in Bach's St. John Passion. Marissen's methodology is to briefly examine the parts of John's Gospel that have caused scholars to deem it the most anti-Judaic of the four canonical Gospels, to review the choral responses to the biblical texts in light of Lutheran theology as it would have been understood a century after the Reformer's death (Bach owned many volumes of Luther's writings as well as the Calov and Olearius Bible Commentaries), and to compare what Bach actually did with what he could have done (as evidenced by what other musicians did and by the approaches taken in such popular culture forms as the passion plays). Only rarely does Marissen turn to an analysis of the music to make his points. He does this in his discussion of cadence in relation to Jesus' sense of his own identity (p. 12-14) and in his discussion as to whether Bach used fugue to express the obstinacy of Jesus' Jewish adversaries (p.30 ff). Musical discussion within the text is keyed to the recording of Sigiswald Kuijken (editio classica 77041-2-RG, BMG Music), though an Appendix of Musical Examples lists seven other recordings of the work as well.
The central essay is well argued and easy to follow. The footnotes are extensive and helpful, as is the list of Works Cited. The Annotated Literal Translation of the Libretto, which makes up the second half of the book, uses different type treatments to help the reader distinguish between Gospel text, chorale responses to the biblical narrative, and aria/arioso responses. The book also includes a 5-page Appendix on Anti-Judaism and Bach's Other Works (namely, the Cantatas for the 10th Sunday after Trinity and the St. Matthew Passion).