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On the left the rebuilt Thomas School Anno 1732. The apartment of the Bach family was on the left of the building. On the right is “a part of the Cather(ine) Street”. Zimmermann’s Café which hosted Bach’s Collegium Musicum was located in the center building labeled “2”.

Around this time in 1725, Bach was still on a break from writing cantatas (they were not to be performed in Leipzig during the 40 days before Easter), but was by no means resting. On the contrary, he was likely rather stressed out about his passion music for Good Friday 1725.

We know that on Good Friday 1725, Bach performed a revised version of his St. John Passion from 1724. We don’t know why he revised it, and some scholars such as John Elliot Gardiner even suggest that Bach had been planning to perform a St. Matthew Passion instead.*

If we could only travel back in time and find out what happened. If it was indeed Bach’s plan to perform a completely new composition, why did he not perform it until 1727? Did he simply run out of time, or did the Leipzig city council not approve of the piece? And why exactly did he revise the St. John Passion? Did he want to change it himself, or had the presentation of Jesus as victor** in the original 1724 version irked the city council?

Now for some music, related to my previous blog post, but completely unrelated to the passion stress story above:

Following up on my post from two weeks ago, there are two more cantata movements that show up in Bach’s “Schübler” organ chorales:

The fifth movement of Cantata 10 Meine Seele erhebt den Herren (live performance in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig by alto Bogna Bartosz, tenor Jörg Dürmüller, and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Ton Koopman) disguised as organ chorale BWV 648 (Ton Koopman on the historic Müller organ (1724) of the Grote Kerk in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands) with the same title. Click on the links to watch and listen on YouTube.

Also: the second movement of Cantata 137 Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren from 1725 (violinist Margaret Faultless with all the altos of the Amsterdam Baroque Choir under the direction of Ton Koopman), transformed into organ chorale BWV 650 Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter (Bine Katrine Bryndorf on the historic organ (1724) of the Garnisons Kirke in Copenhagen, Denmark). Click on the links to listen on YouTube.

Wieneke Gorter, March 5, 2018

*In his book Music in the Castle of Heaven, John Elliot Gardiner makes a strong case that Bach might have initially planned to have the St. Matthew Passion ready for Good Friday 1725. Read this blog post to find out why that is not an unlikely scenario at all.

**Read more about this in this blog post