Two Views on Baby Christ: The Story of the Nativity Told by Schütz and Bach. Essay I. “...Ich verkündige euch große Freude”


This is the first of two essays on the interpretation of the gospel story of the Nativity (Lk 2:1, 3–21; Mt 2:1–12) in Weihnachtshistorie by Heinrich Schütz and in Weihnachtsoratorium by Johann Sebastian Bach. Both composers’ approach to the text is in full accord with their Lutheran religion, but they contemplate the sacred image of Baby Christ in two different ways. Schütz describes the biblical personages as opera characters. In the Intermedia, which reproduce their direct speech, he treats the words of the Gospels as libretto texts. At the same time, his music keenly responds to all details of the stories told by Luke and Matthew, and their dissimilarity helps Schütz express the deep essence of the events: the appearance of Christ in the world puts a lot of people in motion, and for everyone the Nativity has its own meaning. However, the emotional atmosphere of the Feast is determined not by those people but by 
peacefully sleeping Baby Christ Himself, the central character of the work.