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Lenten Music: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

March 18, 2010

I posted earlier about Bach’s St. John Passion and since today I began listening to his St. Matthew Passion, I thought I’d share some of it with you.

This was the piece that Felix Mendelssohn conducted in 1829, beginning the Bach revival.  (Bach had been more or less forgotten by the early 19th century, or at least dismissed as quaint and old-fashioned.)

The first movement of the Passion is entitled “Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen” (Come, my daughters, share my mourning).  Interspersed with the text of the passion is the hymn “O Lamm Gottes, Unschuldig” (O Lamb of God, unspotted), with text and tune by Nicholaus Decius (c. 1485-after 1546).  This hymn appears in Lutheran Service Book at LSB 434 “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy.”  The video that follows is of that first movement, followed by the text and translation (the hymn lines are in bold).

Kommt, ihr Töchter, helft mir klagen,
Sehet – Wen? – den Bräutigam,
Seht ihn – Wie? – als wie ein Lamm!

O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig
Am Stamm des Kreuzes geschlachtet,
Sehet, – Was? – seht die Geduld,
Allzeit erfunden geduldig,
Wiewohl du warest verachtet.
Seht – Wohin? – auf unsre Schuld;
All Sünd hast du getragen,
Sonst müßten wir verzagen.
Sehet ihn aus Lieb und Huld
Holz zum Kreuze selber tragen!
Erbarm dich unser, o Jesu !


Come, ye daughters, share my mourning,
See ye —(Faithful) whom? — (Zion, et sim.) the bridegroom there,
See him — how? — just like a lamb!

    O Lamb of God, unspotted
    Upon the cross’s branch slaughtered,

    See ye, — what? — see him forbear,
    Alway displayed in thy patience,
    How greatly wast thou despiséd.

    Look — where, then? — upon our guilt;
    All sin hast thou borne for us,
    Else we had lost all courage.

    See how he with love and grace
    Wood as cross himself now beareth!
    Have mercy on us, O Jesus!

From → Church Music, Hymns

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