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This Is My Body
Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri
Experience every emotion up close and stand within the Passion scene – in the body of the sound – as Figure offers an immersive, surround-sound performance of Dieterich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri (1680), a visceral Baroque choral meditation on the crucified body of Christ.
“Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In a sequence seven short cantatas, each dedicated to a different aspect of Christ’s body on the cross (from his feet to his face, including his heart), Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima (Most Holy Limbs of our Suffering Jesus) contemplates both the anatomy and the agony of the crucifixion, as well as its salvation and joy. Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach’s narrative depictions of the Passion story, Buxtehude paints a series of moving tableaux, combining devotional poetry with music of extraordinary, heart-rending and, at times, terrifying immediacy and intimacy.
This unique ‘Passion-meditation’ was likely first-performed as part of the annual Abendmusiken concert series at the Marienkirche in Lübeck (in modern North Germany), where Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707) was organist from 1668 until his death. Removed from the stricture of church liturgy, Membra Jesu Nostri acts as a devotional aid, inviting the listener (and viewer) to stop and survey Christ’s afflicted body, guiding both the eye and the ear around the spectacle; all the while accentuating the relationship between His corporeal sacrifice and their redemption, a central tenet of Buxtehude’s Lutheran faith. In short, Membra Jesu Nostri brings the listener into a communion with Christ – “this is my body”. The title page of the original manuscript even carries the words, “to be sung with the humblest devotion of the whole heart”.
Performed by solo voices (from memory), in the warm resonance of the elegant, white-washed Swiss Church (Covent Garden), Figure’s performance will both amplify Buxtehude’s original intentions and embody its subject matter by placing a standing audience in the body of the sound – in the heart of the Passion scene – as the singers move freely throughout the space. Directed from the chamber organ by Figure’s Musical and Co-Artistic Director, Frederick Waxman, the performance will run uninterrupted (around 60 minutes) before the evening gives way to drinks and further, more informal music-making.
- 📅Tue, 14 March 2023
- 📍Swiss Church, London
Swiss Church, London
Endell Street, London, WC2H 9DY, United Kingdom