Yesterday was the fifth Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Passiontide: the liturgical prayers and observances of the Church are building ever more urgently to the climax of the Triduum. Today’s musical selection, my second-to-last Lenten music post, is from what is perhaps the greatest musical composition created for the penitential season, Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion.  The piece in the clip below, “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (“Have Mercy, My God”) powerfully combines words and music to evoke the experience of repentance:

Have mercy, my God,

for the sake of my tears!

See here, before you

heart and eyes weep bitterly.

Have mercy, my God.

Erbarme dich, mein Gott,

Um meiner Zähren willen!

Schaue hier, Herz und Auge

Weint vor dir bitterlich.

Erbarme dich, mein Gott.

The clip was recorded in 1947, and features violinist Yehudi Menuhin and contralto Eula Beal. Don’t let the scratchy sound at the very beginning deter you: this is a magnificent performance. My last Lenten Music selection of the year next Monday will also come from St. Matthew’s Passion.

Below: “Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane” by Carl Bloch (1873)

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