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Bach's St. Matthew Passion: A Closer Look (Magnum Opus) [Paperback]

Victor Lederer
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Nov 2007 Magnum Opus
Johann Sebastian Bach's the St. Matthew Passion stands as a singular expression of religious sensibility. First performed in 1727, and conceived within the constraints of Bach's role as cantor of the St. Thomas Church in the provincial German city of Leipzig, the music has a power and profundity that readily transcend time and place. Yet the darkness of the subject - the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus - and the complexity and sophistication of Bach's compositional techniques can make the St. Matthew Passion difficult listening for even the most eager novice. By highlighting the inspiration Bach drew from opera, this book truly illuminates the hybrid forms that comprise the work, thereby clarifying many of the composer's dramatic strategies. Drawn from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the narrative sections - featuring characters including the narrator-Evangelist, Pilate, Peter, Judas, and Jesus himself - have tremendous theatrical power, while non-Biblical arias and chorales offer moments of deep reflection and consolation. St. Matthew Passion shows the willing but intimidated beginner the way into the intricacies of Bach's masterwork while unveiling subtleties for the more knowledgeable listener as well. Finally, Lederer recounts the fascinating performance history of the St. Matthew Passion and looks at the merits of different recordings of this extraordinary work, indisputably one of the cornerstones of western music.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (15 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826429408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826429407
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 13.4 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


I must admit to delighting in the 129 pages of this extremly readable book ... I thoroughly recommend anybody to whom the St. Matthew Passion is a problem to spend £9.99 on this beautifully common sense book.' Musical Opinion, March 2009,""Bach's St Matthew Passion is the ultimate depiction of the torture and (attempted) murder of Jesus Christ:  the most beautiful, the most harrowing and the most innovative."" -Damian Thompson, The Telegraph, April 2009,""Victor Lederer's 132-page guide, the first in Continuum's Magnum Opus series, not only puts the music in historical and theological context; it also draws your attention to crucial but easy-to-miss details in the score."" -Damian Thompson, The Telegraph, April 2009,""One of this book's many virtues is that it unfolds at roughly the same pace as the St Matthew Passion itself.""  -Damian Thompson, The Telegraph, April 2009,""a user-friendly resource for the keen novice, it is also nuanced enough for the more knowledgeable reader."" ""The book has the added interest of concluding with discussion of the work's performance history and the merits of various recordings. Written in clean , clear prose, this is recommended reading for anyone interested in delving into this great work"" Classical Music, 11 April 2009 --No Review Available

About the Author

Victor Lederer is a New York-based critical writer on music and cultural issues. He is the author of Chopin: A Listener's Guide to the Master of the Piano in the Unlocking the Masters series from Amadeus Press. He has also published books on Debussy and Williamsburg. He is affiliated with the Brooklyn Historical Society.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
To the choral singer or a member of the audience this book is invaluable. In fact there is a danger of information overload as it takes the reader through the whole work explaining each aria and chorus and how the whole hangs together and how it came to be written. A very worthwhile read if sometimes heavy going.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study aid ! 8 Dec 2013
By Jamesay
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this an invaluable resource for a project.
Good clear writing and excellent layout.
Authoritative research.
Thank you for supplying this rare work
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming 11 Jan 2010
I was disappointed with this book. The main body of the text takes you through the St Matthew Passion number by number in a largely descriptive manner. There are no musical examples and few analytical insights. I reckon if you have a good recording you are likely to get most of what you get here in the liner notes. If you have very little prior knowledge of the St Matthew Passion, however, this book could be a good introduction.
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