Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


The use of antisemitism in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion has been a controversial subject for centuries. Many musicologists argue that Bach was only stating the words of Matthew, directly quoting the gospel many times throughout the piece. However, some scholars have studied Bach and feel as though his background had a large impact on his style of writing. It is well known that Bach studied the texts of Martin Luther religiously. In fact, he kept many of Luther’s texts in his extensive theological library. One of these essays, On the Jews and their Lies, stated many antisemetic defamations. Some included calling the Jews, “stupid fools” and “lazy rogues”. In 1829, Felix Mendelssohn revived the St. Matthew Passion to honor Bach and his music. However, Mendelssohn made quite a few revisions. Many musicologists, like Jeffrey Sposato, believe these revisions were made because they opened up the piece to mainstream 19th-century audiences. However, being born into a Jewish family himself, it is hard to claim that Felix Mendelssohn only cut out important pieces of the Passion for purely aesthetic reasons. By analyzing both Bach’s version and Felix Mendelssohn’s cuts, it is possible to assume that Mendelssohn cut out a majority of the arias, half a dozen chorales, and many recits because of their negative depictions of Jews. My research revisits the argument and reconsiders the question why Mendelssohn, a Jew who converted to Christianity, made certain cuts for the 1829 performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Cassandra Haas is a senior Music Education major at Valparaiso University. She was a member of the Valparaiso University Chorale and performed both the St. John Passion in 2016 and the St. Matthew Passion in 2019. She participated in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 in the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. Cassandra also sang with the Thomanerchor in the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church) in Leipzig, Germany where both J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn were known to perform. Her musical experiences both in and out of Germany have given her insight into Bach's life and musical endeavors. Cassandra hopes to be a music educator or a music therapist in the future.

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