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Old 12-17-2016, 04:34 PM   #1
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The St Matthew passion.

from J.S.Bach, of course. Have you ever noticed this work begins in E minor and ends in C minor? Well, I don't know what the "rules" were for an oratorio in those days, but it looks rather strange for some like me. At least the mass in b minor begins in b minor and ends in D major. But the weird thing is that, the movement being in C minor the armature or key signature is that of G minor (or B flat major if you like). I think there must be other important movements written in C minor too. The theme (there are other themes too but I don't remember) starts in C minor and ends in E flat mayor. This modulation alone is a wonder of music. Well, I only wanted to remark these two things. The odd key signature and the fact that it ends in a key not even related to that of the opening movement.

Another distinguished feature is the final chord. It is a tonic chord of course and hence a chord build upon C, but you'll notice it begins with the seventh degree (a B natural) merged into the cord at first, thus creating a feeling of friction, but afterwards resolving to C. Music was really a full developed art by that time indeed.

Last edited by Enrique; 12-17-2016 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:59 AM   #2
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This link may help to explain Bach's use of tonality (you'll need to download the file) - the part from p.46 deals specifically with the St.Matthew Passion.
'Man know thyself'
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Old 12-21-2016, 01:30 AM   #3
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Thank a lot for this interesting essay.
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Old 12-21-2016, 07:52 AM   #4
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Agreed. The essay is excellent and I've been working my way through it with a highlighter! Makes for stimulating night-time reading!! I can use it as the basis for a lecture on the Bach Passions for a future Music Appreciation program; our group is up to it, and I always keep the humour going to make sure they're on their toes. (If anybody loses concentration, or 'drifts', in my programs I always caution them, "you've got 'homework' for this section so keep sharp, as it were, or you'll leave me flat!".)

Decades ago at university I can remember our third year Musicology lecturer discussing and demonstrating (on the piano) simultaneous dual tonalities in the St. Matthew Passion which were, just as described in the essay, representations of the text. A tragic like myself and a couple of my mates there absolutely lapped it up, discussing it for a long time afterwards.
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