In commemoration of the anniversary of Bach's death 270 years ago, requiescat in pace, at St Thomas Church
(or, perhaps, at Thomaskirchhof, which is presumably adjacent thereunto and a museum etc?) in Leipzig, via their Facebook account; so far as I can tell it looks like it will be livestreamed but I could be misunderstanding the English-translated-from-German, here.
Was only there because Benedict XVI cooperated with the director Michael Maul in next year's edition of the Festival, which will feature the music of 33 cantatas, the St Matthew Passion, and the Christmas, Easter, and Ascension oratorios over four days-- 'Bach's Messiah', bookmarked by performances of Handels's Messiah. Judging from Benedict's text, at one point perhaps a performance of the Mass in B minor was foreseen, also-- but that may be the old man editing in a work he would himself have included on the program.
While planning the cycle, artistic director Michael Maul read Benedict XVI’s trilogy “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was published between 2007 and 2012 while he was serving as pope.
Maul entered into a correspondence with Benedict XVI, which culminated in the pope emeritus’ message. Festival organizers said that the 93-year-old told them that he wrote the text in June 2019, “as I do not know how long my health will stand the test of time.”
One never knows; maybe I'll win the lottery and be in Halle and Leipzig in eleven months.
The preface written by Benedict (in 2019), in the English partial (I believe: who knows what they left out) version at the Bach-Archiv/Bachfest Facebook page.
When creating the cycle, Bachfest Artistic Director Prof. Dr. Michael Maul used the three-volume biography Jesus of Nazareth of the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI as a conceptual and chronological guide. Based on this, Maul entered into an exchange of letters with Benedict XVI, which culminated in a greeting by the Pope emeritus for the Bach Festival Leipzig 2021, which he already wrote in June 2019: "as I do not know how long my health will stand the test of time". In the three-page text Benedict conveys his blessings for the festival and appreciates the idea of the cycle:
"The particularity of this festival is that it has merged the works of Bach relating to the life and work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth into one whole, thus gifting us with a kind of 'Messiah' by Bach. The Christmas Oratorio, the Passions, the Easter Cantatas, the great Mass in B Minor, which in the Credo takes us step by step through Jesus’ whole life and simultaneously transposes it into the life of the community of believers-- these, together with a series of Sunday cantatas, are the essential elements which go to make up this musical image of Jesus, this image of the Messiah. The fact that the artistic director, Dr Michael Maul, for whom we have this concept to thank, took my Jesus trilogy as his inspiration and guide was a particular joy for me and one I accept with gratitude."
At the same time, Benedict emphasizes the role of Bach's music as a timeless guardian of the divine message in a world in which
"... the faith that produced this music and which Bach, as a musician, loyally served, is now extinguished and continues to have an effect only as a cultural force.
As a devout Christian, one may regret this reduction, but it also has a positive element. For the fact remains that something is accepted as culture, that is the fruit of a devout encounter with Jesus and that bears this origin in it forever.
Let us remember that according to Bach, the 'end and final reason' of all music should be 'none other than God’s glory and the recreation of the mind'. And indeed, Bach’s glorious music itself moves us deeply and glorifies God, even where he is not formally present through faith. In this sense, precisely those people who share Bach’s faith can rejoice and be thankful that through his music, the atmosphere of faith, the figure of Jesus Christ, lights up even where faith itself is not present."
The conclusion of the Pope emeritus is:
"And so it seems to me that there is a two-way process: faith has generated culture, which shines far beyond it. But inversely, even today, this culture still conveys something of its origin to the whole world. It is something akin to the 'pleasing aroma' that emanates from Christ (cf 2 Cor 2, 14f). It has no missionary intention; the 'pleasing aroma' is present for its own sake, without intent, and precisely by this means does it spread 'God’s glory'.
In this way, we can all, Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers, gratefully allow ourselves to be moved by beauty, knowing that it shows us the right way.
In this sense, my best wishes and sincere blessings are with the 2021 Bachfest."
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