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passion music,choral music whose text depicts events immediately surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus. The earliest passions, composed from the 9th to the 14th cent., were monophonic and employed the actual biblical text of one of the four Evangelists. Polyphonic passions originated in England in the 15th cent. After the Reformation, free poetry was added to passion texts. Orchestral accompaniment was used during the baroque period. The genre reached its peak in the baroque period with such works as Schütz's three Dresden passions (1665–66) and J. S. Bach's St. John Passion (1723) and St. Matthew Passion (1729). Not well represented in the 19th and early 20th cent., the genre underwent a revival in the late 20th cent., notably with K. Penderecki's Passio et mors domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Lucam [Passion according to St. Luke] (1965) and Arvo Pärt's Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem [Passion according to St. John] (1982).
See B. Smallman, The Background of Passion Music (2d ed. 1970).