(from Lat. passio, suffering). The suffering of Christ. Passion harmonies used in the Luth. Ch. in commemorating the suffering and death of Christ date back to the 16th c.; dramatic forms of portrayal have been traced to the 12th c. (see also Religious Drama, 2, 5); roots of the choral Passion may be traced to the 4th c.
There are many musical settings of the Passion. In the Middle Ages the words of Christ were assigned to bass, evangelists to baritone, others to tenor. At first all parts were sung by priests; later the parts of the mob were sung from the choir loft by other choral groups.
Musical Passions became more dramatic when polyphony was introd. ca. the end of the 9th c. But in Luth. circles the dramatic element was at first absent. Luths. who began to use greater freedom include J. à Burck,* J. C. Demantius,* A. Scandello,* N. Selnecker,* and M. Vulpius.*
In the 17th c., Passions continued to become more dramatic; baroque influence made itself felt (e.g., in the works of T. Selle*); a close relationship bet. Passion and oratorio developed. As of old, a St. Matthew Passion was often presented on Palm Sunday, St. Mark on the following Tuesday, St. Luke on Wednesday, and St. John on Good Friday Where elaborate presentations were impossible, the hymn O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde(n) gross, regarded as the chorale version of the Passion, was often substituted.
The most famous Luth. Passions of the pre-Bach era are those of H. Schütz.* His St. Mark Passion is largely in the old recitative style, but his St. Luke and St. John Passions are more polyphonic. His St. Matthew Passion is his most dramatic, hence most popular. In his Sieben Worte Christi am Kreuz he uses an instrumental accompaniment for the words of Christ.
The Oratorio Passion (which used the Bible text) developed beginning in the 1st part of the 17th c. in works, e.g., of T. Selle* and J. Sebastiani.* The Passion Oratorio (which replaced the Bible text with a metrical rhymed paraphrase) developed late in the 17th c. Reaction, which combined Oratorio Passion and Passion Oratorio, began with G. F. Handel* and included, e.g., J. S. Bach,* J. Mattheson,* and G. P. Telemann.* Because of their proportions, some Passions (e.g., J. S. Bach's St. Matthew and St. John) are usually presented on a concert stage. Other 18th c. composers of Passion music include K. P. E. Bach,* F. J. Haydn,* J. Kuhnau,* G. Pergolesi,* and K. H. Graun* (the popularity of whose Der Tod Jesu helped keep the Passions of J. S. Bach obscure for a c.). 19th c. composers include L. v. Beethoven,* L. Spohr,* and J. Stainer.* 20th c. composers include H. A. Distler* and Kurt Thomas (b. 1904 Tönning, Ger.; works include Passionsmusik nach dem Evangelisten Markus).
O. Kade, Die ältere Passionskomposition his zum Jahre 1631 (Gütersloh, 1893); H. Kretzschmar, Führer durch den Koncertsaal, II (Leipzig, 1899).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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