In this third instalment of the Passion narrative, we complete Part I of Bach’s masterpiece with the depiction of Jesus and his disciples in the garden at Gethsemane. Each time, Jesus goes off to pray, and returns to find his companions asleep. He submits to God’s will, and we see the eventual betrayal by Judas, and the response of both the disciples and Jesus himself.
Bach – Matthew Passion – section 3 (30mins)
Demessieux – Prelude ‘Vexilla Regis’ (organ)
The second piece I have chosen for today is a short setting for organ of the gregorian chant melody ‘Vexilla Regis’ by the 20th Century French organist and teacher Jeanne Demessieux. It captures something of the duality that is present through much of Holy Week – the stateliness and poise of Christ approaching his passion, and the undercurrent of horror and pain that accompanies it.
The text of the chant translates as follows:
The Royal Banner forward goes,
The mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.