NAU Professor Designs Interactive Website for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
To commemorate Bach’s
birthday, Tim Smith, professor of music theory at Northern Arizona
University, has designed a “virtual performance” of the St. Matthew
Passion. The interactive and innovative site will be launched March 21,
Bach’s birthday, in time for Holy Week. It is best viewed on full
screen at http://bach.nau.edu/matthew/mp.html (or
on laptop here.)
Smith created the site for the
Oregon Bach Festival to honor Helmuth Rilling for his 44 years as artistic
The St. Matthew Passion
represents the high-water mark of liturgical art in the 18th century. It received its first performance in Leipzig, Germany, on Good Friday 1727,
with three more performances in Bach’s lifetime. Thereafter. the work was forgotten and
nearly lost, until a landmark performance by Felix Mendelssohn 100 years later.
Since then, the St. Matthew Passion has seldom been heard in its liturgical
context, having become part of the standard literature of the concert hall.
This website reimagines the work in its original setting by using Bach’s Bible
and Leipzig’s churches as interactive hypertexts. “I want to move and
motivate people -- to inspire them,” said Smith, website designer. “By
reimagining the piece as liturgical art, I hope to nudge those who perform and
love it to more awareness of its existence, and genesis, as an artifact of
Throughout his 44 years
as master teacher, conductor, and artistic director of the Oregon Bach
Festival, Helmuth Rilling has demonstrated a deep respect for Bach’s liturgical
music as the public enactment of a particular community’s beliefs and its
commitments. In this performance by the Gächinger Kantorei and the
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart (courtesy of Hänssler Classic), he guides listeners through
the narrative of the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life as recorded by the
Evangelist, St. Matthew. Soloists include Michael Schade (Evangelist), Christiane Oelze, Ingeborg Danz, Matthias Goerne, and Thomas Quasthoff.
The website offers the libretto in 15 languages. Adobe Flash is required.
Partners in the Digitalbach Project
include the Hinkle Charitable Foundation, the Oregon Bach Festival, Hänssler
Classic, and Northern Arizona University.