Digital Bach: Essential Online Resources

Johann Sebastian Bach by Haussmann

Johann Sebastian Bach by Haussmann

We are glad that so many ABS supporters were able to attend our January double-bill of Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. Next up is one of the greatest masterpieces of music, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, February 27-March 2. Bach’s musical setting of the Passion narrative as told by Matthew is epic in its proportions, deeply moving in its depiction of human suffering, sacrifice, and redemption; and the music is glorious!

Beginning with Felix Mendelssohn’s rediscovery and performance of the work in 1829 to the historically informed, and romantic interpretations that share the stage today, a venerable performance tradition surrounds this masterwork due to nearly two centuries of experience performing it, analysis, contemplation, and engagement.

Like any great masterpiece, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion rewards periodic revisiting and focused inquiry; the more you learn about it and experience it, the deeper and more fulfilling the work becomes for you. Below are a few essential online resources for researching Bach and one of the enduring examples of his genius. Happy surfing!

The Bach Digital Archive is an amazing resource for viewing Bach’s music in historic manuscripts. Want to see the original parts Bach wrote out for his musicians for the Good Friday performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1736? The Bach Digital Archive has them along with the manuscript for the Mass in B Minor and many other works.

The Bach Cantatas website is another essential site; bookmark it immediately! Not only do they have the texts & translations for each cantata, but you will also find historical information about the composition of each work (including the oratorios and Passions) and a recorded history for each work (complete or in excerpts). The recordings are also searchable by work or by artist. When you need to know what Bach arias were recorded by Marian Anderson, this is the place to go!

In 2008, National Public Radio created a curated tour of the work with an excellent cast of experts including tenor Ian Bostridge, Ton Koopman, Joshua Rifkin, and others. The 50 minute St. Matthew Passion primer was launched again in 2014. Listen here.

Of course, Wikipedia is always a handy go-to resource for Bach biography and information about individual works.

If you are looking for books and articles about Bach, try the Bach Bibliography. If you navigate to it through a search engine, use the words “bach tomita.”

The American Bach Society publishes an esteemed journal of Bach scholarship titled Bach Perspectives. Their site is a hub for all-things Bach on the web.

There are many more Bach sites that are valuable to lovers of his music and to curious minds. If you have a favorite, please share it with us on our ABS Facebook page.

Tickets for the February 27-March 2 presentations of St. Matthew Passion are available here.