Premiere of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion
J.S. Bach wrote a number of musical settings for depicting the events of Christ’s final days leading up to his execution, but only his treatment of St Matthew’s and St John’s gospel accounts survive. Written for a 1727 Good Friday performance in Leipzig’s St Thomas Church where he was employed as cantor, the work is divided into two parts: the first encompasses the Last Supper, the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane and his betrayal and arrest; the second deals with the trial, crucifixion and burial culminating in the great chorus Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder, “We sit down in tears”. Bach revised it on a number of occasions and the version usually performed dates from the middle of the 1740s, set for two choirs and two orchestras.
Here is the entire 2 hours and 43 minutes of the masterpiece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm1os4VzTgA&spfreload=10
For those who wish a highlight only, here is the final chorus Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7X41SUO5-o&spfreload=10
The lyrics are:
We sit down with tears
And call to you in your tomb
Rest gently, gently rest!
Rest, you exhausted limbs!
Your grave and tombstone
For our anguished conscience shall be
A pillow that gives peace and comfort
And the place where our souls find rest.
With the greatest content there our eyes
will close in sleep.