J S Bach St Matthew PassionThe more I get into languages, the more they fascinate me – and I am in pretty deep already!

Last weekend (early February 2016) I saw J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion sung in German by the Lea Singers.The setting was majestic – St Albans Cathedral.So apt. So moving.

I have never studied German but have been around “Germanists” for a long time. I carefully followed the text with the translation – an exercise which I enjoyed, drawing parallels to, and noting contrasts with, English.  What struck me was the power and strength of German to portray extreme passion. Some of the chorus pieces, indeed, are as poignant as the sublime solo pieces.

Lass ihn kreuzigen (let him be crucified).

These three words caught my imagination – it was the sound and potency of the words. The words are repeated, reinforcing the impact.

In contrast, some of the passages are sublimely lyrical. They are soft, gentle and caressing.

German sometimes is thought of as a harsh language. Male anglophone students perhaps prefer it to the more effeminate Romance languages. My experience, last weekend, albeit fleeting, demonstrated to me, they are wrong. German is attractive.

St Albans cathedral logo



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