Sunday, June 24, 2012

St. Matthew's Passion

Improvisation - Childe Hassam

Music is a powerful art. It can take a person and completely sweep them up in emotion. Occasionally I find a piece of music that reaches inside me and effects me in a way that is almost hard to comprehend.  In Plato's Republic, Socrates offers his theory of music, which places it foremost amongst the arts.

"...Glaucon, musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar."
"Because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul" That is exactly what truly beautiful music is capable of - affecting a person to their very soul. Unfortunately, most of modern music cannot even come close in comparison to classical music in its beauty, and therefore the ability of music to truly speak to one's soul is lost.

Occasionally I find a piece of classical music that is so beautiful that it forces me to just stop and listen to it.  Recently I was listening to Bach's St. Matthew's Passion on youtube and came across a St. Matthew's Passion written by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev.  I had never heard of it before so I clicked on it. It was so beautiful that I had to stopped work and just listen to it for a while. I have to say that it is one of the most incredible pieces of music I have ever heard - I actually think it is better than Bach's St Matthew's Passion.

Metropolitan Hilarion is Metropolitan of Volokolamsk in Russia and a noted Orthodox theologian, church historian author and composer. He is a modern polymath, and his music is comparable to the greatest composers he seeks to emulate. Crisis Magazine did a great interview with him about his St. Matthew's Passion here.    

I highly recommend taking some time to actually listen to all of Metropolitan Hilarion's St Matthew's Passion, but here are just a few selections to whet your appetite.

 St Matthew's Passion No. 1 Chorus: Come, Let us Sing a Holy Lament Unto the Lord  

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