Passover

Exploring Passover's Musical History

Apr 29, 2016

This week, Passover is being celebrated by millions of the Jewish faith. And while the Christian holiday of Easter has inspired Bach's Saint Matthew Passion and many other beloved classical works, Passover claims no famous pieces in the concert repertoire. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder explores why.

WRTI celebrates Passover with two great specials: A Musical Feast for Passover with Itzhak Perlman: Wednesday, April 16 at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2 and the All-Classical stream at wrti.org, and The Passover Story with Theodore Bikel: Saturday, April 19 at 11:30 am on Crossover.

When Bach wrote his Inventions and Sinfonias BWV 772-801, he described them this way, "An Honest Guide by which lovers of the clavier, and particularly those with a desire to learn, are shown a plain way, not only (1) to learn and play neatly in two parts, but also, with further progress, (2) to play correctly and well in three obligato parts; and, at the same time, not only to obtain good musical themes, but also to develop them well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style of playing, and along with it, to gain a strong foretaste of composition."

Tonight marks the first night of Passover, the commemoration of the Jews' liberation from slavery. Like millions around the world, I'll be sitting down to Seder to celebrate, in my case with a completely religiously and culturally mixed-up mishpocheh. I'm not Jewish, but Passover is one of my favorite nights of the year. With all of its rituals, this holiday takes eating mindfully to a whole new and incredible level, with every foodstuff, prayer and movement geared towards revisiting and renewing the ancient story of bitterness and then emancipation.