Singers and Roles in Bach’s Passions

Daniel R. Melamed

in Hearing Bach's Passions

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195169331
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865376 | DOI:
 Singers and Roles in Bach’s Passions

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Are Bach's passions dramatic? Whether we hear Bach's passions in concert performances or (rarely nowadays) as part of a liturgy, there is no missing the importance of narrative. The passion settings each tell a story in the voice of an Evangelist using the words of the New Testament; individual characters speak, and the work takes its structure, organization, and pacing from the progress of the narrative. But the tendency to hear Bach's passions as dramatic, and to interpret them by the standards of musical drama, has consequences for the way we perform and listen to these works today. In particular, it is central to figuring out what to make of performances likes Bach's own, that use small ensembles in which a very few singers took on multiple duties.

Keywords: concert performances; liturgy; narrative; Evangelist; New Testament; musical drama

Chapter.  6153 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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