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MatthewcandlecropLast year, the Oregon Bach Festival launched a digital project that took listeners through J. S. Bach’s Mass in B minor (BWV 232) and the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) with video, graphics, and line-by-line following of the music. This year, the festival takes listeners similarly through Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), which it will perform this summer.

The website launched 21 March 2013, Bach’s birthday, with HD video of conductor Helmuth Rilling‘s complete St. Matthew lecture-concerts; poetry, artwork, photography, and scholarship; and a line-by-line animation of the libretto available in fifteen languages, set to Rilling’s 1999 recording.

Within the St. Matthew’s “Cuepoints” section the focal point is a visual representation of a 1681 bible edited and annotated by Abraham Calovius, a leading theologian of the time. Page by page, viewers can study Bach’s libretto matched against the German-language Calov bible while hearing the corresponding passage of the music. It’s a wonderful way to plunge into this magnificent music.

In addition to the animated text study, the St. Matthew Passion project includes:

  • Rilling’s three hours of lecture-demonstrations recorded at the 2012 Oregon Bach Festival in high definition video, divided into four parts and twenty-six chapters.
  • Translations of the libretto in fifteen languages, including Indonesian, Hebrew, Russian, Hungarian, Swedish, and Swahili. A sixteenth, Welsh, is to come.
  • Nearly one hundred pages of scholarly essays and texts, including a sermon by Martin Luther and reflections by poet John Reeves.
  • Virtual tours of both the St. Nicholas and St. Thomas churches in Leipzig, where Bach was responsible for the music.
  • Interactive music notation and text of the eight different Lutheran chorales Bach incorporated into the score.
  • “Stations of the Cross,” a five-day listening guide containing artwork by sculptor Alan Baughman.
  • Rilling’s complete Hänssler CD recording featuring the Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, and soloists Michael Schade (Evangelist), Christiane Oelze, Ingeborg Danz, Matthias Goerne and Thomas Quasthoff.

David StablerThe Oregonian