Monday Music: Erbarme Dich – in Arabic (J.S. Bach)

Here’s something a little bit different for your Monday amusement.  Erbarme Dich is probably the most famous contralto aria from Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion.  It’s sung after Peter has denied Jesus three times, and, sung well, is an absolutely compelling portrayal of grief and guilt.  It’s also very firmly part of  theWestern musical canon.

So here it is, translated into Arabic.  And when I say translated, I’m not just talking about the lyrics – the style both of singing and playing has a decidedly middle-Eastern feel.  And it’s rather amazing.  The solo violin in this piece, as was pointed out to me recently, has a sound rather similar to Jewish liturgical Eastern European Jewish violin music, and this Eastern influence is brought very much to the fore here.

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