Emory Report

September 18, 2000

 Volume 53, No. 4

Bach work dissected

By Karen Poremski

On Nov. 11, the Emory Concert Choir will join the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and soloists to perform Bach's St. John Passion, one of the major works of the sacred vocal repertoire.

Bach's rendition of Christ's persecution and death, based on the gospel of John, weaves orchestral music, which will be played on period-accurate instruments, with hymns providing a communal commentary on the action and arias whose texts Bach drew from contemporary poets.

The St. John Passion first was performed during Holy Week in Leipzig, Germany, in the early 18th century. In the 20th century, as questions about the anti-Jewish nature of John's gospel arose, people began to ask questions of Bach's work as well. Recent scholarship has tackled the question of what to do with the piece-a major accomplishment in music yet one which carries disturbing implications, particularly in a world of post-Holocaust awareness of the dangers of anti-Semitism.

Michael Marissen, a music writer for The New York Times and associate professor of music at Swarthmore College, will take part in a panel discussion on Nov. 9 (sponsored by Emory's Music Department). The panel, moderated by Associate Professor of Music Stephen Crist, will also include Don Saliers, William R. Cannon Professor of Theology and Worship; Gail O'Day, Almar H. Shatford Profesor of Homiletics; and Alvin Sugarman, Rabbi of The Temple. The panel will seek to address the theme of reconciliation through considering how we "rescue" this beautiful piece of music from its potentially destructive characterizations yet confront its controversy honestly and directly.

SYMPOSIUM: Nov. 9, 4 p.m., Cannon Chapel; free and open to the public.

PERFORMANCE: Nov. 11, 8:15 p.m., Glenn Memorial Auditorium; for ticket information, contact the Emory Box Office at 404-727-5050 or www.emory.edu/ARTS/.

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