Songs We Love: Anderson & Roe, 'Erbarme Dich' : Deceptive Cadence The bitter suffering and voluptuous lyricism of Bach's St. Matthew Passion are channeled with empathy by a popular piano duo.
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05Erbarme Dich (from St. Matthew Passion)

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Anderson & Roe's Personalized Bach

Anderson & Roe's Personalized Bach

05Erbarme Dich (from St. Matthew Passion)

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    Song
    Erbarme Dich (from St. Matthew Passion)
    Album
    The Art of Bach
    Artist
    Anderson & Roe Piano Duo
    Label
    Steinway & Sons
    Released
    2015

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The new album by piano duo Anderson and Roe is devoted to J.S. Bach. Ken Schles hide caption

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Ken Schles

The new album by piano duo Anderson and Roe is devoted to J.S. Bach.

Ken Schles

Music lexicographer Theodore Baker, in his biographical dictionary of musicians, labeled J.S. Bach as the "supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music." And while Bach may have blanched had he read such a description, there is absolute power to much of his music.

From the exuberance of a Brandenburg Concerto, the rigor of a prelude and fugue or the heart-wrenching pathos of his Passion settings, there's an architectural sturdiness to Bach that can accommodate almost any interpretation.

That is something the piano duo Anderson & Roe understand intuitively in their new album The Art of Bach, which includes their own arrangements for two pianos of selections from the St. Matthew Passion.

In Bach's original, the aria "Erbarme Dich" (Have Mercy) is for alto and a mellifluous violin that rises from the orchestra to assuage bitter tears. It's suffering swaddled in voluptuous melody. There's no way it should translate to just a pair of pianos. Yet it does. A heartbeat throbs in the low register and tears drop in high arpeggios while the drama intensifies.

Chalk it up to Bach's built-to-last construction and two pianists — Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe — who are keenly attuned to its greatness.

(This track was also included in a recent discussion of new classical recordings on All Things Considered.)

Purchase Featured Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
The Art of Bach
Artist
Anderson & Roe Piano Duo
Label
Steinway & Sons
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?