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BACH/ St. John’s Passion: I too will follow you, Lord, with joy

March Wed 16, 2011

Johann Sebastian Bach  Johann Sebastian Bach

Today’s article is first of all an act of gratitude and of filial love. I met the movement of Communion and Liberation when I was nineteen and I had moved from my home town of Milan to a small town (and I mean small) of Polesine, in Eastern Italy. The paths of Providence are very mysterious and, in my case, definitely ridiculous.

 

This meeting changed my life. Nothing less. I owe everything to the courage, humanity, passion, and poetry of a priest from Lombardy: Don Luigi Giussani. A person who, though I never met him face to face, was able to change my life in a simple yet fundamental way. He instilled in me, as Péguy would say, a seed of hope that even the vicissitudes of life could not corrupt (and not because of my own doing).

 

Because of this I want to dedicate to him, a few days after the sixth anniversary of his death, a piece which seems to have been written by him. It is from the St. John Passion by Bach and is, more precisely, number 13, the soprano with flute aria.

 

This is a very particular moment in the Passion, where the evangelist makes a precise annotation, like a reporter: “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple”. This seems like nothing more than a note in the margins, almost a stage direction, yet Bach in his genius makes it into an aria. It is an aria that, at first glance, does not seem to fit in with the dramatic events of the Passion, but which really expresses the heart of them.

 

It is a moment that is full of happiness, and the joyful desire to walk with Christ, to follow Him, and never to leave Him. It is the words of one friend to his dearest friend, and Bach modulates those feelings in a familiar and joyful way.



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