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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Evangelist and vox Christi combination in Bach's St Matthew Passion

Vox Christi, Latin for Voice of Christ, is a setting of Jesus' words in a vocal work such as a Passion, an Oratorium or a Cantata. Conventionally, for instance in Protestant music of the Baroque era, the vox Christi is set for a bass voice.

In Protestant Germany the words of the vox Christi are in German: when the vocal work contains a sung Gospel reading, such as in Bach's Passions, the words are taken from Luther's Bible translation, but the words may also be free verse, as for instance in the Brockes Passion. In either case the composition may also contain a setting of an Evangelist's words, which are traditionally set for a tenor voice.

Apart from a difference in voice type, settings of Jesus' words in recitatives can be further differentiated from surrounding text settings by, for instance, giving them a more arioso character, or setting them accompagnato (while the Evangelist and other characters sing secco).

Passions and Oratorios of the first half of the 18th century

Jesus Christus ist um unsrer Missetat willen verwundet is a St Mark Passion which originated in Hamburg in the first decade of the 18th century. Johann Sebastian Bach's first staging of this Passion music was in Weimar c.1712. Its vox Christi bass appears in secco and accompagnato recitatives, and in an arioso on the Gospel words "Eli, eli, lama asabthani".[1] In his Brockes Passion George Frideric Handel set Jesus' words for bass in recitatives, ariosos and arias. The Evangelist's recitatives are set for tenor.

In Bach's extant Passion compositions the vox Christi bass combines with an Evangelist's tenor voice. The Evangelist narrates the story in the Gospel's exact words in recitative secco. In the St John Passion the words of Jesus are set as recitatives secco leaning toward arioso. In the St Matthew Passion they are in accompanied recitative, that is they are additionally highlighted by an accompaniment of strings and basso continuo.[1] The Vox Christi also appears in Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and in his Ascension Oratorio.

Bach's cantatas

In Bach's church cantatas the vox Christi may utter either literal words from the Bible which are neither direct quotes of or even attributed to Christ but are presented in the context of the musical work as being made by Christ, or extra-biblical words, for example in a dialogue between the Bridegroom (Christ) and the Bride (the Soul), or in an address to the Bride.

In Bach's Weimar cantatas (1714–1716):

In Bach's first cantata cycle (1723–1724):

Bach uses the Vox Christi in several cantatas of his second cycle (1724–1725):

The last four of these were on a libretto by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler

From Bach's third cantata cycle (1725–1726):

Later additions to the chorale cantata cycle:

In one of the other late church cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Vox Christi performers

Some basses and baritones are especially known for singing the words of Jesus in Bach's Passions, including:


  1. ^ a b Gilles Cantagrel, translated by Charles Johnston. liner notes of Markuspassion Mirare 2015, p. 31
  2. ^ a b Alfred Dürr. 1971. "Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach", Bärenreiter 1999, ISBN 3-7618-1476-3 (in German)
This page was last edited on 10 January 2018, at 11:47
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