Sunday, April 05, 2015

Pausing to listen, for the opportunity to hear

Yesterday, the Saturday before Easter Sunday, we took the time to listen to Bach's St. Matthew Passion. The recording dates from 1962, digitally remastered in 1989.

Time needed to be taken. The entire recording clocks in at just short of four hours! The conductor, Otto Klemperer, was known for slow tempi. He doesn't disappoint. This is not so much the performance of a piece of music as the taking of a spiritual journey.

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, in addition to the Boys of Hampstead Parish Church Choir, accompany him and the listeners on the journey.

Solo parts are performed by an astonishing array of talent: Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, and Walter Berry.

The pacing allowed a near-operatic performance to unfold. But then, is not the subject matter near-operatic in itself?

There are performances of this work that take less time, that may well be in closer to what Bach may have had in mind.

But this is a performance that seeks to move, to engender reflection, to—perhaps—be an expression of a depth of spirituality that can only communicated this way.

I don't know the answer to that final "perhaps." But this was a work that rewarded the pause from the daily round, the time taken to sit with it, and through it.

1 comment: