This book (published in German by Bärenreiter in 1988 and now available in English translation for the first time) is a comprehensive guide to the genesis, transmission, structure, meaning, and performance considerations of Bach's St John Passion. The St John Passion is one of Bach's most fascinating works. Its text demonstrates a profound understanding of St John's Gospel. The musical design of the choruses with their
numerous interrelationships is quite unique and requires some explanation. The fact that the Passion exists in four different versions leads Dürr to ask which changes were intentional and which were the result of practical constraints or of orders issued by church authorities. The introduction to
the work is preceded by a detailed account of its genesis and transmission, and the uniquely complicated nature of the sources. The discussion of the Passion itself is based on the assumption that what Bach wanted to say to the Leipzig congregation on Good Friday was designed to be understood in verbal and musical terms. Number symbolism, 'eye music', and encrypted information do not form the essence of what Bach was trying to communicate to us.
`If it is reliable information on this remarkable work that you want, Dürr's study is the obvious place to start. Bach could have no more faithful servant'
John Butt, Times Literary Supplement
Durr's sensitivity to and historical grasp of the text ... give the book an authority that can hardly be surpassed.
`It would be fair ... to describe Alfred Durr as the doyen of Bach scholars worldwide ... a scholar of legendary reliability and good sense. Like many others, I feel a deep pleasure in welcoming the spate of books and articles of his post-retirement years, for whatever he touches is in safe hands ... The obvious strength of the book is its alert and intimate description of three complicated matters ... covered here better than ever before: the Passion's
genesis ... transmission ... and meaning ... Durr's sensitivity to and historical grasp of the text ... give the book an authority that can hardly be surpassed.'
Peter Williams, Musical Times, March 2001
`a useful setting-out of the various problems the work presents, and the author's comments are always sensible.'
Early Music Review 67, Feb 01.
Introduction. Did Bach compose a Passion before 1724?
1. Version I (1724)
2. Version II (1725)
3. Version III (c. 1730)
4. Version IV (c. 1749)
5. Score A
1. The lost original score X (1724?)
2. The revised score (source A, c. 1739-1749)
3. The original parts: Introduction; Set I; Set II; Set III; Set IV; Parts no longer extant
1. Protestant settings of the Passion
2. The text of the St John Passion: a. The depiction of the Passion in the Gospel according to St John; b. The Gospel text; c. The chorale verses; d. The free poetry
3: Bach's music: a. The setting of the biblical narrative; b. The chorale movements; c. The choruses; d. The arias and ariosos
4: Problms associated with the overall formal design and the different versions
5: Performance practice: a. General remarks; b. The execution of the continuo; c. Specific problems
Appendices: Problematical Points
Appendix I The participation of transverse flutes in Version I
Appendix II The reconstruction of Movement 33 in Version I
Appendix III The chronology of the Passions Bach performed in Leipzig
Appendix IV The problem of symmetry in Bach's work
Text of the St John Passion (German & English)