A Reconsideration of the Performance of the Chorales in J.S. Bach's Passio Secundum Johannem, BWV 245 and the Influence of Harmonic Language and Baroque Affekt on Modern Performance Practices
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis document examines the performance practices of the chorales in Johann Sebastian Bach's (1685-1750) Passio secundum Johannem, BWV 245. While many modern-day scholars and performers believe that the congregation sang the Passion chorales and therefore perform them in an accordingly straightforward and homogenous manner, my involvement with this work has led me to consider other possibilities of performance. I am convinced by the evidence in the Ordnungen und Gesetze der Schola Thomana (Regulations and Legislations of the Thomas School), the evidence presented by three renowned Bach scholars, and the evidence of Bach’s music, that the congregation would not have sung the chorales of the Passion. Having scrutinized the musical language and text that Bach deliberately and thoughtfully laid out, I see the possibility for a more dramatic and contextualized approach to these chorales, something the congregation would not and could not have achieved. Because there is almost no published scholarship regarding the performance practice of Passion chorales, there is a need for a study of this nature. My goal is to provide conductors and performers with a historically-informed option to present Bach's chorales in a manner that reflects the drama of the Passion story. I will demonstrate that conductors should consider factors such as harmonic language, textual interpretation, and placement within the broader Passion narrative when making interpretive performance decisions for each of the twelve chorales.
Degree ProgramGraduate College