Vol I No. 7

Objectively Divine: Mengelberg’s 1939 St. Matthew Passion

Daniel Orsen

Bach is the most objective of composers. Objective with a capital O because his music points towards the Truth, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. It is the closest artistic expression of the fullness of God’s creation, our place in it, the life of Christ, the meaning of his life and death, and even the nature of God. Self-expression was not a concern for Bach. His music is certainly expressive, but never self-centered or wayward; it points towards God, the Objective.

Because God is intimidating and unknowable, and Bach’s music conveys and participates in this mystery, his music is intimidating and unknowable. There can be no definitive interpretation of Bach. No amount of theory, study, practice, or the proper style will yield this.

Counterintuitively, the intimidating and unknowable Objectivity of Bach means that great performances of Bach depend on the Subjective. The music of Bach, as Objective, partakes of the ultimate other, but we can only approach Bach as persons, as individuals in the Subjective “I” perspective. Real authenticity in Bach comes from being authentically one’s self. This means that there are potentially as many authentic interpretations of Bach as there are people. But being authentically one’s self is no easy thing. It is in fact an incredibly rare thing, because it is dependent on bringing our Subjective selves into a

Please subscribe to read The Anglican Way in full.

Subscribe Now