Archive for February 4, 2018

Erbarme Dich Allah

Posted in Music with tags , , on February 4, 2018 by telescoper

Here is a wonderful re-imagining of the aria Erbarme Dich, Mein Gott from the St Matthew Passion by Johan Sebastian Bach sung in Arabic with intense passion by Egyptian contralto Fadia el-Hage.

Three things struck me when I first heard this on the radio the other night. After the initial surprise when I first heard her voice, I thought how wonderfully well the Middle-Eastern inflections work with Bach. That’s mo surprise of course, because Bach’s music is so beautifully constructed that it can be performed in many different ways without diminishing its power. It really is universal.

The other thing was about a different kind of universality, that it seems common to all humans to reach out for whatever it is that lies beyond everyday life and experience, whether through religion or by some other means. We don’t have to agree with each other’s beliefs to see in others the same need as ourselves. This aria in particular (I’ve posted about it before) conveys the feelings of shame and remorse of the disciple Peter after having betrayed Jesus. The point is that feelings such as this are universal. We all – men and women, christian and non-christian – come to know what it is to feel like this, just as we all come to know about pain and death. It’s the fact that we all know that we will die that gives the story of the Passion its tragic power.

Finally it occurred to me that this might annoy some intolerant folk as it translates all these things into an Islamic context. That gives me an additional reason for posting it!