Glorified

• November 29th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, My favourite posts

When I did an interview recently for the Pakistani station CityFM89 I got to pick 15 songs to be played on the programme.  A real treat, and an honour.  But I wasn’t allowed to pick any classical music, which meant leaving out some of my favourite pieces.

Here is one of them, the opening chorus of Bach’s St John Passion: ‘Herr unser Herrscher.’  Insofar as it is possible to have a single favourite piece of music, this is probably it.  There is so much going on here: immense energy (feel the tension, the exhilaration!), incredibly intricate architecture that is structurally perfect and yet fluid, working through time as well as space…  But running through it all is that wonderful quality of serenity, assurance, optimism that (for me) epitomises the Baroque era, back in the Age of Enlightenment, when the world was brutal and cruel, but so many many possibilities were opening up.  Will there ever be another time like it?

The words in German are:

Herr, unser Herrscher,
dessen Ruhm
in allen Landen herrlich ist!
zeig uns durch deine Passion,
daß du, der wahre Gottessohn,
zu aller Zeit,
auch in der größten Niedrigkeit,
verherrlicht worden bist!

In English this is something like:

Lord, our ruler,
whose praise
is glorious in all lands,
show us by your Passion
that You, the true Son of God,
at all times,
even in the lowest state,
have been glorified.

You don’t have to agree with the theology to recognise that the music embodies the idea expressed in those final words.   Even in the lowest state, it glorifies.

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