Officially launched at www.digitalbach.com on Bach’s birthday – March 21 – the new site incorporates high definition video of conductor Helmuth Rilling’s complete St. Matthew lecture-concerts; poetry, artwork, photography and scholarship; and a line-by-line animation of the libretto available in 15 languages, set to Rilling’s 1999 recording.
The St. Matthew Passion joins the project’s similar explorations of Bach’s B Minor Mass and Goldberg Variations. The University of Oregon’s John Evans, the site’s executive producer, sees the new component as a fitting prelude to the 2013 Oregon Bach Festival, Rilling’s last as its artistic director.
“Education has always been paramount to our festival and to Helmuth Rilling,” Evans said. “This combination of his insights, the scholarship and the beauty of the interactive elements opens new possibilities in understanding one of the great achievements of Western art.”
Within the St. Matthew’s “Cuepoints” section, the focal point is a visual representation of a 1681 bible edited and annotated by Abraham Calov, a leading theologian of the time (the Cuepoints interactive feature requires Flash). Page by page, viewers can study Bach’s libretto matched against the German “Calov” bible while hearing the corresponding passage of the music.
Music theorist Tim Smith, the site’s chief programmer and editor, aims for audiences to revisit Bach’s Passion in its original context. “All the elements relate to Passion music’s place in the Lutheran liturgy and how Bach’s congregation might have heard the work,” said Smith, who also authored the project’s B Minor and Goldberg interactive elements.
“I hope to nudge those who perform and love the St. Matthew to more awareness of its existence, and genesis, as an artifact of faith.”