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Bach's Major Vocal WorksMusic, Drama, Liturgy$
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Markus Rathey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300217209

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300217209.001.0001

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Seeing and Understanding

Seeing and Understanding

The Oratorios for Easter and Ascension BWV 249 and 11

(p.138) Chapter Six Seeing and Understanding
Bach's Major Vocal Works

Markus Rathey

Yale University Press

This chapter examines Johann Sebastian Bach’s oratorios for Easter Sunday and Ascension Day. Easter Oratorio and Ascension Oratorio were composed for use during the regular morning liturgy. A common theme in both oratorios is the relationship between seeing and understanding or—in philosophical terms—between empiricism and rationalism. This chapter first considers why Bach became interested in the genre ‘oratorio’ and how Easter Oratorio and Ascension Oratorio deal with ‘drama’ before discussing the complex histories of the two oratorios. It then analyses the two oratorios in greater detail, noting the unusual two instrumental movements before the voices enter in movement 3 in Easter Oratorio and the intriguing setting of the soprano aria in the Ascension Oratorio.

Keywords:   liturgy, Johann Sebastian Bach, oratorios, Easter Oratorio, Ascension Oratorio, seeing, understanding, empiricism, rationalism, instrumental movements

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