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March 22nd - Bach's Passions

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
/
SC Public Radio

A few more words today about Johann Sebastian Bach, whose birthday was yesterday. Bach wrote enormous quantities of  profoundly moving sacred music. But the hallmark of Bach’s music, whether sacred or secular, is that it’s Always passionate.  

And it’s important to remember that the emotions, or passions, that find their expression in religion, or in religious music, are in fact universal emotions.  They’re variants – in religious clothing, you might say – of the feelings that are common to all people: love, longing, fear, devotion, peace, expectation, comfort, joy, and so forth. One of Bach’s greatest masterpieces, for example, is the B Minor Mass. But it’s a Catholic Mass, and Bach wasn’t Catholic! He was Lutheran. What was he feeling as he wrote the Mass? They weren’t specifically his beliefs, so what beliefs was he expressing? And for three centuries the B Minor Mass been profoundly moving even for people who have no religious beliefs…

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.